§ 2.38 p.m.
VISCOUNT TRENCHARD rose to move to resolve, That this House regrets that, notwithstanding the recommendations in the Oaksey Report, more urgent action has not been taken by the Government in order to bring the Police Forces of the country up to an effective strength. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in moving the Motion which stands in my name, I should like first to say a word about the previous debates on crime which we have had recently in this House. In my opinion, bringing the Police Forces up to strength is by far the most important and essential step towards reducing crime of the kind that is so prevalent to-day. Most of my remarks will be upon that theme. The Oaksey Committee were appointed in May, 1948 Their terms of reference were:
To consider in the light of the need for the recruitment and retention of an adequate number of suitable men and women for the Police Forces of England, Wales and Scotland, and to report on various points,
which I will not repeat, Those were the terms of reference. I intend to-day to confine my remarks to two points—promotion and housing,
§ The promotion question is referred to fully in paragraphs 207 to 231, and housing in paragraphs 270 to 302, of Part II of the Oaksey Report Before I refer to these two points, however, there are a few general observations I should like to make, The Oaksey Report at different 83 times refers to the Police Post-War Committee. That Committee was set up in May, 1944, to review certain matters affecting the post-war organisation of the Police Service and to consider the question of higher training of the leaders of the organisation and training courses for higher ranks. The first report of that Committee of 1944 was published in March, 1947. The second report of that same committee was signed in November, 1946, and not published until 1949. The third report was signed in December, 1946, and was not published until 1949. The fourth report was signed in May, 1947, and was not published until 1949.
§ I do not know whether that Post-War Committee is still in existence. The fourth and last report does not say whether the Committee has finished its work. In the four reports issued, the Committee deals very fully with many of the questions dealt with by the Oaksey Report—such as higher training and housing, the two points with which I intend to deal to-day. I have mentioned this fact only to show the difficulties of assessing all the recommendations which have been made in the various reports during the last three or four years. The Oaksey Committee were appointed, as I have said, in 1948, before the publication of the last three of these reports.
There is another general remark that I have to make. We are told that a large number of applicants who come up for entry into the Police Forces are rejected on educational, character or physical grounds. This fact is borne out by the Oaksey Committee, who say, speaking of candidates accepted:
We understand that in some forces the proportion may be less than 5 per cent. and is seldom higher than 10 per cent.
of those who apply. The Police Forces are evidently not attracting enough of the right type of man. Why? The Government in this House were warned in 1948, and the Oaksey Report is a result of that warning. In this connection I pointed out in February, 1948, that one of the reasons why bright young men would not join was that they saw no chance of getting out of the rut early in their careers. I gave as an example of the authorities' public attitude towards higher training what was said in the First Report of that 1944 Committee—namely, that
It might be felt in some quarters that undue weight was being given to what might be described as 'disputable' personal qualities—such as intelligence, character and personality—or to academic attainments, as against proved police ability and achievements.
Your Lordships will remember that I stressed the word "disputable." I think at the time the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack thought that I was a little unfair. I did not intend to be unfair at all, and evidently the right type of young men rather agreed with me, because they did not join after that Report was issued. With that remark in it I cannot see why they should.
Now I come to the Oaksey Report on that point. Paragraph 197 of Part II of the Oaksey Report—an independent Report—says:
We think it should be borne in mind that character and intelligence are of more importance than education in at least the lower ranks of the police service, and candidates who are otherwise suitable should not be excluded by too rigorous insistence upon educational qualifications.
I agree with the Oaksey Report on that point, and I say that if a young man has character, intelligence and personality, and knows he has it, the rest will come—if he is given proper training. But is he given proper training? The Oaksey Report in the same paragraph says:
On the other hand, everything should be done to attract the better-educated men and women who will be required if the higher posts in the police are to be filled satisfactorily from within the service.
I could not agree more. That was the whole essence of the reforms in my day, and of my speech two years ago. In the debate on Lord Lloyd's Motion the other day, two years after the Oaksey Inquiry, we were told that the figures of recruitment are very little better, at least in the Metropolitan Police Force; and violent crime has increased. Even a week ago, on April 27, according to Press reports the chief constable at a meeting of the West Riding Standing Joint Committee, said:
I am trying to preserve the peace and see old people are not frightened of putting their heads out of doors at night for fear of being hit on the head, and that little girls are not molested.
He was supporting his plea for extra police. That was last week. We are still not getting enought recruits. The figures given in the debate last month show a gain of only 171 in the Metropolitan Police
Force in six months. This was the figure up to February of this year. We have gone forward another two months since then. I do not know whether the proportion of acceptances has been greater since the beginning of March; I hope so. But we have a long way to go.
§ It may be within your Lordships' recollection that the Oaksey Inquiry originated as a result of the debate in 1948. In that debate the Government first refused to set up an Inquiry; but the Home Secretary announced shortly afterwards that it would be set up and the Committee commenced their work on May 12, 1948. Part I of their Report dealt with Pay and Pensions, and was published in 1949. We had a debate on that subject. The second Part was completed in November, 1949, and was published at the end of December, just before your Lordships rose for the Winter Recess and for the Election. This is the first time it has been debated and, therefore, there have been four months in which to read and thoroughly appreciate Part II of the Report. In it I find many extraordinarily interesting, wise and sound remarks on the question of the two points with which I am going to deal—namely, promotion and housing. I must, I fear, quote some short extracts from the Report to show how it supports the views which have been expressed from time to time in your Lordships' House. I ask the noble and learned Viscount who is to reply for the Government what steps have been taken to implement these recommendations which were signed last December.
§ In the debate in June, the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor referred to my ideas on higher training as my "King Charles's head"—in other words, I think he implied that I had rather a one-track mind. My Lords, I admit it: I have a one-track mind. I would rather go down the main track, instead of wandering down all the side paths into the jungle in order to avoid the difficulties straight ahead. I think the words "The Right Road for Britain" should be nailed on the door of every house in ibis country. In the same debate the noble and learned Viscount took me to task for criticising the Police College near Coventry without having seen it. He invited me to visit it and the Home Secretary kindly gave me the necessary permission. I was much interested in the 86 Police College. The amenities are nothing like good enough, but I realise they were the best that could be provided at the time. But I was mush struck with the staff and the spirit there. It is not for me to talk about them publicly, other than to say that I found them enthusiastic. They are doing good. The students were keen to learn, and very appreciative of the help they were getting. The College is doing good work. But one of the first things I noticed was that cut of a very small staff no fewer than four or five were ex-cadets from the Police College at Hendon. I could not help feeling that these men, who were chosen by the police authorities with the sanction of the Home Office, were specially picked; and it seemed to me that, with the rest of the staff, they were doing very good work but with too old material. I think I am right in saying that the men I am referring to were younger than the majority of the students.
§ I should like to take this opportunity of thanking everyone at the Police College for their kindness in showing me round and telling me all about it, especially the commandant, who is a really "live wire." But—certainly when the Oaksey Report was published—I think the average age of students was in the neighbourhood of thirty-eight or forty. I would ask the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor to say how many students taking the present course at the Police College are above the age of thirty-five and how many are below the age of twenty-eight. I have sent in a note about these matters, and I think the Lord Chancellor is aware of my intention to raise them. In my opinion the younger men would benefit much more if they could be at the College for at least a year—if not eighteen months. Six months is too short. This is only a promotion course, and it will not produce the results which the Government and the Oaksey Committee are trying to get, although undoubtedly it does good. I do not believe, however, that it will have the effect of attracting one recruit. This, in my judgment, is not using the College or the staff to the best advantage.
I agree with what is said in the Oaksey Report on several other points. I agree when it is said that promotion should never be merely a reward for long and faithful service. The Report also states
something that I and other noble Lords have stressed in your Lordships' House many times. This is what paragraph 219 of the Report says:
We think it is essential that most promotions to the rank of sergeant should be made with a view to filling the higher posts later, and that a reasonable proportion of those constables who are promoted should begin their progress toward the top at an early stage. Unless this is done, the ablest men, who might expect fairly rapid advancement in any other occupation, will be deterred from joining the police. Moreover, the qualities required of senior officers must, in our view, be developed at a reasonably early age. Other things being equal, the policeman will make a better inspector, superintendent or chief constable, if he reaches those ranks young enough to adapt himself to the new qualities of leadership that are required at each stage.
That is not my statement; it is the statement of the Oaksey Committee. It is of course, made quite independently of the police. But again I ask: Is the course of six months long enough for this end to be achieved?
One of the main points is to get the students young enough, and in paragraph 219 of their Report, the Oaksey Committee say:
The average age of the students now at the junior course at the Police College, the pick of the police forces of the country, is over thirty-eight.
The Committee go on to say that even under the existing provisions of the Police regulations the position could be improved, but they add:
… in our opinion it is desirable to go a step farther and to amend the regulations so as to make it possible for the outstanding constable to be promoted at an earlier stage than at present.
In the same paragraph, the Committee recommend that the qualifying period should be reduced from five years to four years, and that nineteen should be the minimum age for entry. They also recommend that a constable should be able to take the promotion examination after three years' instead of four years' service. This would give a man a chance of being promoted sergeant between twenty-three and twenty-five years of age. That is a step forward. If that could be brought about it would help recruitment more than anything. It is now five months since that Part of the Oaksey Report was published. I ask the Government: Are they going to carry out these recommendations now, and will they say
whether there is any intention of lengthening the time that students are at the Police College from six months to a year or more?
I must now turn to housing. This was not mentioned in the terms of reference of the Oaksey Committee, but in their Report, they say:
Our terms of reference did not specifically mention police housing, but it was obvious from the outset of our inquiry that we should have to deal with it. All our witnesses said the housing difficulties had been one of the chief obstacles to the recruitment and retention of men.
Part II of the Oaksey Report was signed in October, 1949, and in the five months since the Report was sent to the Home Secretary many improvements may already have been brought into effect. Again, I must refer to some of the remarks made by the Committee. On this subject of housing they first point out that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police said in 1947—I said it only in 1948, and I was taken to task for doing so—that if houses were not provided all other plans, however admirable, would prove to have been built on insecure foundations. I feel that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor himself thought that housing was the most important need—indeed, I believe that he said so.
§ On page 114 of Part II of the Oaksey Report there are some excellent statistics on housing. I will not trouble your Lordships by reading them, but they are very helpful and important. These figures covered the period up to March 31, 1949. I will explain what they were. From the Report it seems that from the end of the war in 1945 until March, 1949, only 167 new dwellings had been completed, eighty-six were under construction by the police authorities, and thirty-three houses had been purchased. That is all that has been done in four years. Yet the number required for the Metropolitan Police Force on March 31, 1949, was still over 2,000. That does not seem to show very good progress.
§ The Oaksey Committee considered, and they repeat, that over that period more should have been done by the police authorities to provide houses. But as they say, the final responsibility is on the Home Secretary. It is no good 89 blaming the police authorities. The final responsibility rests on the Home Secretary and on the Government. May I ask how many more houses have been completed in the further year that has elapsed since March, 1949, and how many are under construction in the Metropolitan Police District by the police authorities?
Now, for the moment, I must turn to the housing authorities. In previous speeches I have pressed that legislation should be introduced to compel these authorities to allot a larger share of their new buildings to the police. The Oaksey Report says:
It is dear that the numbers of tenancies given to the police in many areas where the needs of the Force are great are hopelessly inadequate.
That expression "hopelessly inadequate" is a very strong one. It might be considered an exaggeration if I used it, but it appears in the Report. The Report further says:
In our view, these figures indicate a failure on the part of many housing authorities throughout the country, and of practically all housing authorities in London, to recognise the importance of making adequate provision for the police.
The Committee go on to express the view, if I understand the Report aright, that the minimum proportion housing authorities should allocate to the police in the London area is 7.4 per cent. of the houses which they have under construction for the whole of the population.
§ They also give the percentage of new houses built, under construction and required to provide homes for married policemen, in the counties, cities and boroughs in England and Wales, and in the counties and boroughs in Scotland. I think I am right in saying that the Metropolitan Police Force are more than twice as badly off for married quarters as any other police force in the country. The Report recommends that within as short a time as possible housing authorities should make tenancies available to police authorities for all married policemen for whom no homes are otherwise available. The Report goes on to say that this is an exceptional arrangement, and as the police authority builds more houses local housing authorities will get back some of the houses they have allocated to the police. I hope I am correct in interpreting their remarks in this 90 way. I think I am. The number of dwellings local authorities would be called upon to provide would be less if the police authority could build more houses. Again, what steps have the Government taken to ensure that local housing authorities allot more houses to the police? We have recommended this course two or three times.
Now with regard to quarters for single men, I am pleased to see that the Oaksey Report refers to the extensive programme of new building and reconstruction of section houses undertaken between 1933 and 1939, but they say that the outbreak of war prevented the completion of that work. I hope the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor will note that. The Oaksey Committee recommend the reconstruction and adaptation of old and unsatisfactory premises. They say that unless this is done the recruitment of men to and their retention in the Metropolitan Police Force will be prejudiced. The Report adds:
The only satisfactory way to deal with the problem is to resume as soon as possible the programme of new construction which was suspended in 1939.
The Committee reported in 1949. This means, apparently, that when the Report was signed the programme had not been re-started. Perhaps I have misunderstood the position, or there may be a misunderstanding by the Oaksey Committee. I hope the noble and learned Viscount will make the matter clear.
§ Of all the recommendations of the Oaksey Committee these are the only two that I want to elaborate. In my opinion, there is one other which would encourage men of the right type to join the police, but which I will not elaborate, and that is concerned with the question of pay. Other noble Lords are more competent to deal with this than I am; I have not the figures in my head, nor have I the means of getting them. I hope the authorities recognise that the rates of pay of a large number of police, especially in the Metropolitan Police Force, should be comparable with those of skilled workers. I hope the Government will be able to answer the questions I have put and to say whether the recommendations in the Oaksey Report which I have mentioned have been implemented and published for the benefit of the police and would-be recruits, or when they will be. In order to 91 shorten my remarks, I sent the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack a list of the questions I am asking to-day, and I will not repeat them. I hope the Government will to-day be able to answer these points and show that there is some improvement, even since the Oaksey Committee reported. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House regrets that, notwithstanding the recommendations in the Oaksey Report, more urgent action has not been taken by the Government in order to bring the Police Forces of the country up to an effective strength.—(Viscount Trenchard.)
§ 3.4 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, apologised to the House for having what he called a single-track mind. Let me say to him, and I think I am expressing the view of every member of this House, how very glad we are that he has this one-track mind. He and I worked together a good deal in the past, and I can say that the great services that he has conferred upon the country, whether in the field of the Air Force or in the field of the Police, have been due to this singleness of purpose with which once again to-day he has approached the difficult questions of the Police Force. Let me also, as an old Home Secretary, say how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Oaksey, for his detailed and valuable Report. I am only sorry that he could not have issued both parts of the Report at the same time. If he had dealt with the questions of housing, promotion, and so on, at the time he dealt with pay, I think the reception of the two Reports would have been a great deal better than it has been. It was not the fault of the noble Lord that he issued his Report in two separate parts. I understand that he was much pressed by the Home Secretary and the Home Office to do so. At the same time, I repeat what I ventured to say in one of our earlier debates: that from the point of view of recruiting it would have been much better if the likely recruit had seen the whole picture at one and the same time.
With those two or three words of introduction, let me pass directly to the questions the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has raised, and to certain others that I am going to add. In recent 92 Sessions we have devoted a great deal of time to valuable discussions of questions connected with crime. We had long discussions on the Criminal Justice Act and the interesting discussion the other day upon crimes of violence. I am glad that those discussions have taken place, for they confirm what has always been in my own mind: that in the war against crime we have to advance over the whole front; we cannot isolate one part of it. We have first of all the point of criminal law. It must be a wise law, in general harmony with the public opinion of the day. We have the point of penal methods. There must be a wise prison administration, and there must be alternative forms of punishment, such as those we discussed during the debates on the Criminal Justice Act. Let me say, in passing, that I very much hope that we shall see a greater effort than has hitherto been the case to bring into operation the alternative punishments of detention sentences and of new kinds of remand homes without which the Criminal Justice Act will really prove to be ineffective. Thirdly, we have to advance upon the point that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has just been discussing—the field of the police. It is of interest here to remember that during the nineteenth century, when the great period of criminal and penal reform started, Sir Robert Peel, one of the best of all Home Secretaries, started at the police end. On that account I cannot stress too strongly the importance of the police side of the question in the prevention and detection of crime.
What is the present position? On the one hand, we are faced with a formidable increase of crime, as compared with prewar years. I am not now arguing on the figures quoted by the Lord Chancellor the other day, which went to show that in recent months crimes of violence have been slightly less frequent than last year and the year before. I am stating the broad fact that in the course of ten years, from 1939 to 1949, violent crime as a whole has increased and that violent crimes under the Larceny Act of 1916 have risen from 265 to 990 cases since 1939. That is the first fact that faces us. The second fact is the grave shortage of police. On the one hand there is the increase of crimes, and on the other, the decrease of the Police Forces.
93 Let me substantiate what I say about the police. Taking the country as a whole, the Police Forces are 20 per cent. below their establishments. Only two or three days ago the Home Secretary repeated the fact that the Metropolitan Police are 4,000 short on their present establishment of 20,000. But, as many people have stated, the situation is in fact worse. The establishment of the Metropolitan Police Force has not been raised since the war, as it certainly should have been. As I have already stated, I am informed that the real shortage in the Metropolitan Police Force, if the strength is to be as effective as it should be, is something more in the nature of 6,000.
Let me analyse these figures a little further. The Oaksey Report quotes these figures, and they are interesting, because they show that while in certain parts of the country the situation is almost as bad as it could be, in other districts it is fairly satisfactory, and in some even entirely satisfactory. Let me give the House one or two examples. In Shropshire there is a shortage of no less than 28.6 per cent. in the Police Forces; in Hampshire the shortage is 25 per cent.; in Coventry it is no less than 45 per cent.; in Oxford City it is 33 per cent.; and in the City of London, 26 per cent. On the other hand, the Police Forces of Staffordshire are up to establishment—in fact, I believe there is a waiting list—and the Police Force of Plymouth needs only one man to bring it up to its full establishment. That is a notable fact, if you compare Plymouth and Coventry. I compare those two cities for the reason that both, as we know, were subjected to devastating air-raids. Therefore, one would have thought that the shortage of police would be much the same in the two cities. There is the astounding fact that, while in Coventry there is a shortage of 45 per cent., in Plymouth the Force is practically up to establishment. Lastly, in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, as distinct from London, our own capital, the Police Force is up to establishment, and no recruits are needed. I suggest to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that these great contrasts merit detailed examination. I have a feeling that it will be found that the disparity between counties and cities which one might have thought would be similar is due to the fact that in some areas the Police Forces have re- 94 ceived a care, sympathy and attention which they have not received in others.
Let me proceed from this part of my argument to the next. I come now to the question of recruiting for the police—or perhaps I should say of recruiting for the police and wastage from the police. The problem of recruiting, serious as it is, is, in my view, much less serious than the problem of wastage. In the period since the war in certain areas the recruiting has risen above pre-war standards. What has been serious has been the continual wastage that has persisted, particularly in the Metropolitan Police Force. Men have entered the Police Force and staved two, three, four or five years, and then left it. I remind the House of the figures the Lord Chancellor gave me the other day. I asked for the figures of recruiting and wastage in the Metropolitan Police since the Oaksey Report had been published. These figures show that during the six months from October, 1949, to the end of February this year (I am referring to Part I of the Oaksey Report), 707 recruits entered the Metropolitan Police Force, but no fewer than 536 left it. The result is that, even after the increased rates of pay and other advantages recommended by the Oaksey Committee in Part I of their Report, tie Metropolitan Police Force in the course of six months has increased its strength by only 171 constables. Noble Lords can calculate for themselves as to how long at that rate it will take the Home Secretary and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to bring the strength up to the establishment.
I need not elaborate the conclusions to be drawn from these figures. I ask noble Lords to think of their effect on, first, the prevention of crime—perhaps the main duty of the police—and, secondly, the detection of crime. As to the prevention of crime, I have ventured to point out in this House time and time again the importance of a sufficiency of constables on the beats for the purpose of preventing juvenile crime and delinquency. Every administrator and expert with whom I am in contact confirms the view that it is essential, if we are to prevent children and young persons from drifting into serious crime, that there should be policemen walking up and down the beats as a perpetual warning to potential offenders.
95 As to the detection of crime, I received some figures from the Lord Chancellor the other day. I was interested in this problem of detection, for I well remember that about the time I was Home Secretary a Departmental Committee reported upon the detection of crime and the methods used. It was a very interesting Report. What has happened since, so far as I can judge from the figures which have been given to me, is that the percentage of detection of crimes of robbery and violence has fallen materially. I estimate that about 5 per cent. fewer of these serious crimes are now discovered, as compared with the years before the war. That is a serious fact if, as I believe it to be, my estimate is accurate—and for this reason. It will be found, speaking generally, that serious crimes are on the whole committed by a limited number of criminals. Someone whose opinion I value once told me that all the really dangerous criminals in the country could be confined, certainly in one prison, and possibly in one wing of a prison. That may be an exaggeration, but this fact cannot be questioned: that if this limited number of really dangerous criminals could be satisfactorily detected, we should see a very marked fall in the crimes of robbery and violence which have given the country so much anxiety in recent years.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Will the noble Viscount forgive me? It is difficult to follow all these figures, but my impression was that the number of crimes cleared up at the present time compared favourably with the past. The noble Viscount says that that is not so. If he says so I am sure he is right, but probably he has some figures and perhaps he will give me a reference.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
I will give the Lord Chancellor as the reference the answer that he gave me on April 18. If I may make a criticism, I admit that his answer is not very clear, but so far as I can judge from it—taking crimes of robbery and violence, in which I am interested—5 per cent. fewer of those crimes are being detected to-day as compared with two years before the war. I shall be glad if the Lord Chancellor can tell me that I have misunderstood the figures.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I would not go so far as that, because one gets 96 into such a whirl of figures in these matters and I cannot remember them. My impression was that the result was the other way, but I cannot vouch for it.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
Be that as it may, whether the Lord Chancellor is right or whether I am right, the fact remains that one of the most urgent problems in the war against crime is to get these dangerous criminals into prison, with long terms of imprisonment under the corrective training and preventive training clauses of the Criminal Justice Act. I will give the House one single instance to substantiate what I say. The Committee on the detection of crime to which I have been referring, analysed the cases of 102 serious criminals, and found that they had confessed to no fewer than 1,851 offences. Moreover, one or two of them, when they asked for other offences to be taken into account, admitted to having committed anything up to seventy really serious offences. Whether my actual figures are right or whether they are not, they reinforce my contention that it is essential to bring the Police Force up to its effective establishment.
Now I pass to the steps which ought to be taken. I shall try not to repeat what the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has already said. I shall try to amplify it in certain respects, and possibly add one or two other reasons to those that he has given. I may say that I have taken the trouble in recent weeks to inquire, as well as I could, about the position both in London and the Provinces. I begin with the views that I have collected from the Provinces where, generally speaking, the problem of recruitment and wastage has not been so difficult as it has been in London. The first reason given for difficulty in recruitment is the fact that the police have to work a six-day week, including a considerable amount of night duty. This compares unfavourably with the ordinary industrial worker, with his five-day week and no night duty. Secondly, in pre-war days the attraction used to be a good pension at the end of thirty years' service, whereas nowadays the average man gets a State pension anyhow, so that the police pension has lost a lot of its attraction.
Thirdly, there is the slowness of promotion in the police. I am not now dealing with the details raised by the 97 noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, but with the more general question. This is a very difficult problem in a service where men have to do thirty years to qualify for a full pension. If a man is promoted early in his service he blocks the road to promotion for many years. The chief cause of the slowness of promotion at the moment—and I draw the attention of noble Lords to this point—is the fact that Part I of the Oaksey Committee's Report, which increased the rates of pay, came into force on July 1, 1949, and since then retirement pensions have had to be based on the man's average annual pay for the past three years. This means that all the senior ranks are staying on to complete three years at the new rates of pay, in order to retire on pensions based on those new rates. This is a great stumbling block, as it means that men who ought to retire and thereby give promotion to others, are sitting tight. Fourthly, under the National Health Service Act, the police have had a raw deal. Before this Act came into force every police officer was entitled to free medical and dental treatment. A man could choose his own doctor and get quick service. Now, each man has 4s. 11d. per week deducted from his pay as his contribution to the National Health Service, and owing to the congestion in the hospitals, and the fact that so many of the local doctors are over-worked, he cannot get anywhere near such good attention. This point is greatly resented by the men.
Those complaints show that, speaking generally, the man in the Police Force has lost his relative advantage over other corresponding employed persons in the country. It is a problem that affects all the security services. It is inevitable, perhaps, in view of the great improvement in so many industries in other walks of life, but it does raise for the Government—whether it be this or any other Government—a very formidable problem. I am convinced that if we wish to obtain and to maintain a full establishment in our security services—whether they be the Police, the Army, the Navy or the Air Force—we must face the expense and once again reestablish the relative advantage for them over other corresponding employments. That raises a very big question, and I do not propose to follow it to-day, or 98 to say anything more about these general conditions of employment; but I wish, before I sit down, to say a word about housing.
If noble Lords will read the Oaksey Report, and if they will supplement the Report with the reports of the Metropolitan Police, of the inspectors of constabulary and of the local Police Forces, they will find that bad housing is at the bottom of three out of four of the troubles in the police. Do noble Lords realise the present state of affairs? Let me take the Metropolitan Force as the case which best illustrates the gravity of this shortage of houses. My first figure is a general one—I will take the Metropolitan figures in a minute or two. The general figure is that at the present moment 20,000 married policemen are living in hired houses, 7,000 in hired lodgings, and 700 are separated from their families. In the Metropolitan Police Force the Oaksey Report criticises first the shortage of houses for married police and, secondly, the inadequacy of the section houses built for the single men. The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has just asked a question about the section houses; and I venture to amplify his question by asking first how far there is a programme for resuming the plans that were in operation between 1935 and 1939 for improving the section houses; and secondly, whether these improved section houses are going to come up to the standard of the improved barracks in the Army and in the Air Force. We recall the activities of the present Minister of Defence, when he was Secretary for War, in visiting barracks and in starting new programmes of barrack improvements. Is the same plan of barrack improvement going to apply to the police?
So much for the single quarters. I come now to the actual figures in the Metropolitan area. In the Metropolitan area there is a greater shortage of houses for the police than anywhere else in the country, and that fact comes out in the Oaksey Report. According to my figures, only 167 houses have been built by the police authority—that is to say, the Home Office and the Commissioners of Police—since the end of the war in 1945. Even more surprising, although everybody admits the gravity and the urgent need, the programme for this mere pittance of new houses was stopped altogether in 1947. I will quote in a moment what 99 the Oaksey Report says about the position; it is a very serious criticism of the Secretary of State, who is responsible for the Metropolitan Police and is also both the Commissioner of Police and the Receiver of Police—a fact which was mentioned in the criticisms made by the Oaksey Committee. This is what that Committee say in paragraph 282:We consider that during this period more should have been done to provide police houses for married men in London by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and the Receiver of the Metropolitan Police District, or, in the last resort, by the Home Secretary in pursuance of his responsibilities as police authority for the force.So much for the building of houses in the Metropolitan area by the police authority. But, as Lord Trenchard has just pointed out, there is also the responsibility of the housing authorities—that is to say, the local authorities—for providing houses for letting to the police who are so necessary in their area. Let noble Lords notice this record. Here, in the Metropolitan Police area, local authorities have provided 468 out of 72,000 houses that have been built in the area since the war. Since the war—if one goes beyond the area of the Metropolitan Police—one finds that Coventry (where, as I observed just now, they were 45 per cent. short of their peace establishment) they have provided six out of 590 new houses. In Battersea one house has been provided out of 527 new houses; in Islington two have been provided out of 902, and in Poplar, none out of 755. Is it any wonder that the Oaksey Report says:… the numbers of tenancies given to the police in many areas where the needs of the force are great are hopelessly inadequate"?I give another quotation.… failure on the part of practically all housing authorities in the Metropolitan area …I give a further quotation, this time from the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police himself, in his report for 1948—Lack of houses continued to be a major cause of our poor recruiting figures and of our losses, both of probationers and men with considerable service.These are the things that matter in this urgent problem. These are the things that I cannot help saying have been left in a very unsatisfactory state, year after year.
100 Today the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has alluded to the reports of what was called the Police Committee. They started reporting about these police problems as long ago as 1906. Then came the debate that the noble Viscount himself raised in February, 1948, in which he demanded an inquiry. The Government replied that there was no reason to have an inquiry at that time. Next, there was the first Oaksey Report of more than a year ago and there was the subsequent Oaksey Report of last autumn. In spite of these continuous Reports, I have an uneasy feeling that very little is being done. To-day, therefore, I wish to ask the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor whether he accents the recommendation of the Oaksey Committee that not less than 7 per cent. of the new houses built by local authorities should be allocated to police. I ask him, further, whether he will tell the House to-day which of the other important recommendations of the Oaksey Committee have been accepted by the Government, and what has actually happened, for instance, in the matter of recruitment and wastage since the figures that he gave me at the end of February.
We are dealing to-day with very serious questions, and, if we are satisfied that sufficient action is not being taken, I feel very strongly that the House should show its disapproval in the Division Lobby. We want to be convinced that the Home Secretary and the Government are actively engaged in meeting this serious problem. If they can convince us to-day, we shall all be the better pleased. In conclusion, let me quote to the House an extract that was given me when, as Home Secretary, I was studying police questions. It is an extract from an instruction that was sent by Sir Robert Peel (then Home Secretary) to the newly formed Metropolitan Police. I quote it for the purpose of showing the minute and sympathetic interest that the Home Secretary was then showing in police questions. I feel that that is essential if the shortages and the unsatisfactory features that I have mentioned are to be removed. On January 1, 1830, this order was sent from the Home Secretary to the Metropolitan Police:The Commissioners of Police, feeling anxious to provide all the comforts for the police force that can be given consistently with the duties to be performed, are glad to 101 have to communicate to the constables that Mr. Secretary Peel has allowed another blanket to be issued.That is the kind of spirit in which these difficult questions should be faced. That is the kind of sympathetic support that we ask from the Home Secretary and from His Majesty's Government.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ LORD BADELEY
My Lords, after the two speeches to which the House has just listened from acknowledged experts on the subject, it may seem rather presumptuous for a mere layman to intervene. I do so only as a man in the street who has a strong and vivid interest in the Force as a whole. It is going to be a little difficult to steer a course between the speeches of the noble Viscounts, Lord Templewood and Lord Trenchard, who have so thoroughly covered the ground, and if I am guilty of a certain amount of reiteration I hope the House will forgive me.
We have had a number of debates in this House on crime and on the reform of criminals. The Motion before the House to-day is concerned only indirectly, though very vitally, with the prevention of crime, so I do not propose to touch upon that aspect, except incidentally to refer to a broadcast which some of your Lordships may have heard, wherein a certain Lord Justice painted a moving picture of a very hardened criminal who was completely reformed by having the companionship of a budgerigar in his cell. I am all for reform of any kind, sort or description; but the irreverent thought crossed my mind as to what would be the after-effects upon a talkative, imitative parrot if it had to share a cell with a foul-tongued wife-beater for six months.
I suppose it must be unquestioned that there is going over the country a wave of crime such as has not been experienced for a great number of years. For evidence of this we have only to look at the figures that have been given showing the overcrowding of the cells and prisons of this country. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, that, apart from a revival of an appreciation of the standards of morals, which would effect a diminution in crime, the first line of defence must be the police. It does not need much imagination, as has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, to realise that, if a man is about to commit a burglary or a crime of some kind 102 and goes to the scene where he is going to commit that crime and sees a policeman thereabouts, he is more than likely to make off as quickly as he can, and, at least, leave the job till later. It is tot merely juvenile delinquency that the policeman prevents; his very appearance prevents the man who is about to commit a burglary. However, nowadays, one knows well, as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, pointed out in a previous speech on this subject, that one may go a quarter of a mile from one's house and not see a policeman. The reason is not far to seek. The policemen are not there to find: there are not enough men to do full patrol duty. We are told that that duty is done by the quite admirable police patrol cars, but the answer to that is that, by the time "999" has been dialled and contact made with a police car, the wretched victim has probably been gagged and very possibly left unconscious. We badly need more policemen for these ordinary police duties, as we used to have them in the past. The problem is how to get men into the Force. The Oaksey Report has unfortunately not resulted in the increase for which we hoped.
Here I must go for a moment into some figures. It will mean a little duplication, though not to any great extent. The figures are those given by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in March last. They have been quoted by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood. The result, of course is that there has been an increase of 172 men in six months. That is not good enough and cannot be good enough. We have to find some other way of collecting men. I am told that a recent drive which has been made to recruit men has resulted in a fairly large correspondence from men asking for forms upon which to make their applications for enlistment. One only hopes that the right standard of men will be forthcoming there. I fancy that the percentage of men who will be acceptable from among those applicants will be very small. I came across one report from a chief constable of a county which shall be nameless for the moment. I am carrying the figures in my head, but my impression is that his report was that out of 130 applicants he found that 28 were possible recruits, and of the others that were discarded two were so ignorant that when it came to the examination they did not know even the 103 name of the present Prime Minister. That is hardly the standard of education wanted for the Police Force.
There was an interesting summary in the Police Review of last week of reports from chief constables in various counties. It is interesting to see how the numbers differ. I am not going to bother the House with a lot of figures, but here are one or two. Birmingham is about 500 men short, but Plymouth, which has been referred to by Lord Templewood, is only one under strength. That may be so. Devon as a county, however, needs double the number of recruits in order to bring its Police Force up to established strength. In Edinburgh there have been sixty-four resignations and twenty-three recruitings, and in Derbyshire there has been a drop of thirty recruits. So it goes on. There are many more details one could give. From all quarters comes the same tale of disappointment. I say this to show how desperate the situation is and how eminently necessary it is that some serious steps are taken.
The question is, what steps can be taken? Here I come straight to the question of pay. One starts with the premise that the men we want in the Force are particularly young, well-educated men, of good standard. The first question that a young man asks when he comes to enlist on a life career is, "What is the 'screw'?" On this occasion, he is going to be told that he will be paid £330 per annum, which is the new figure under the Oaksey Report. Out of that he is going to have 4s. 11d. per week deducted for his National Insurance—a service which he received for nothing before the National Health Act—he is going to have deducted a contribution towards his pension; he is going to have to clothe himself in civilian clothes for his off-duty periods, and to feed himself. That is going to leave precious little for him when the pay packet comes in each week.
I go full force on this, because I feel quite sure that we shall not get the right men into the Force unless they are guaranteed that by the time they have passed their examinations and qualified for work on the street, they will be entitled to a wage equivalent to that of the skilled worker: and they are certainly worth it. A policeman has not only to parade the streets; he has to be responsible for the 104 prevention of crime at risk to limb, and very often to life; he has to help in accidents and render first aid; he has to be the general friend and consultant of innumerable people who come and ask him question after question. I wonder if any of your Lordships have ever stood by a policeman, as I have, while he is on the street, and heard the perfectly fatuous and idiotic questions that elderly, middle-aged, and young women ask? You would be perfectly amazed. I am always astonished at the patience they display, not merely on the street but also in the charge-room in the police station. Then they have to be physically fit. Can any of your Lordships imagine yourselves doing night duty from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. for a month at a stretch? I confess I should not like to undertake it myself. They have to be on their feet most of the day. For your Police Force, you must have a man who combines physical attributes with sympathetic manner, a type you need not look for in any other profession. You have to get the right type of man, and in the old days we were certainly able to do that.
The question of housing, has been so well dealt with that I do not propose to say more about it, other than that it is certainly one of the real difficulties with which we have to contend. Lord Templewood has dealt with the point so fully that I will do no more than add that, though some of the section houses in London are excellent (as, indeed, was pointed out in the Oaksey Report), some are deplorably bad. I personally should have been very glad to see some of the money that is being spent on the Fun Fair for the 1951 Exhibition spent on needs much more urgent at home. Then I come to my last point—namely, promotion. From personal experience, I know that many younger men feel a sense of frustration in regard to this matter. A certain number of them feel that they are embarking upon a career in which they will not be able to reach a point where the qualities or faculties that they feel they can exercise will still be at their best. Promotion is going to be slow, and they look for a career in which the opening will be quicker than it is at present. Remedies have been suggested for that, and I would put in a plea that where the younger man has shown himself capable and has passed all the necessary examinations, he should not necessarily be stymied 105 by the elder men who have passed their examinations and are likely to get promotion as a matter of course through length of service, but, as indeed happens in the Civil Service, should have a chance over their heads.
One comes then to a point that has been alluded to—namely, the question of the three years' average. As your Lordships know, under the Oaksey Report that is a question of a certain number of men staying on when their time of service is near its end, in order that they may get the advantage of the full pay and pension for those three years. This is the rule in the Civil Service, and is quite a usual thing. But the result in the Police Force is bad stagnation. If we stop these men going out, we shall stop the outflow from the top, which in turn will stop the men coming up from the bottom. For the life of me, I cannot see why the Government or the Home Office should not go so far as to say, "Let these men do their full thirty years' service, and let them retire on a pension based on what they are getting at the last week of their service." It is said that it will take three years for the stagnation to work itself out; but, after all, the service life of a policeman is thirty years, and three years is one-tenth of that service time. It is not a very cheerful prospect for a man if his promotion is going to be blocked by this. It seems a simple solution. It may mean a certain amount of expense, but I think the result would be worth it. That brings me to the end of my remarks. I must ask your Lordships to forgive me for having gone into details that have already been given, but I feel that unless something is done, and done quickly, we shall not get the type of man who has always distinguished the Police Force, which, after all, was the pride of this country and the model for other Police Forces of Europe.
§ 3.58 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, made as his first point to-night that the present crime wave is due to the shortage of police, and I am sure that he is right. Both he and Lord Templewood have dealt fully with the reasons for the present shortage, and I am not going to venture to go over that ground again. I should like to refer to one remark made by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood— 106 that he was surprised that the Police Force for Plymouth was only one man under strength. I see present two noble Lords who have served in the Royal Navy, and I am sure that they know the answer to that question. They will agree, I think, that many petty officers join the police after their release from the Royal Navy, and I am sure that that one vacancy will be filled when another petty officer retires.
The point that I wish to make to-day is that of the waste of man-power in the police, particularly in one connection—namely, traffic duty. In my opinion far too many police officers are being used for traffic duty, often in places where the work could be done as well, or better, by traffic lights. My noble friend Lord Badeley, with his intimate knowledge of the police, has spoken of the irksomeness of some of their duties. I am sure that one of the most irksome duties is that of controlling traffic. To a man on traffic duty, the thought that what he is doing could be done better by traffic lights must be extremely galling. I can think of many points within a mile or so of this House where traffic lights could be installed with advantage. The outstanding spot, to my mind, is near Trafalgar Square, at the corner of St. Martin's Lane and King William IV Street. It is a perfectly straightforward crossing; there are no complications. There are several straightforward crossings also in Bond Street—at least throe or four—where traffic lights could be installed.
I calculate that, with reliefs, each traffic crossing uses the services of two and a half policemen, and I am sure that a great saving in man-power could be effected if this matter were gone into carefully. I have never been able to understand why police constables sit in little boxes in three spots in the heart of London, controlling traffic lights by hand. No doubt most noble Lords well knew where I mean. One of them is at the top of the Strand, and there is a second one at the City end of Fleet Street. The third such place is on the Thames Embankment near the Savoy. Policemen sit in boxes at those points controlling traffic lights by hand, and, incidentally, there is no cautionary light. I am sure that automatic lights could well be used at those places.
107 I have reason to believe that finance comes into this matter of installing traffic lights. From 20 to 40 per cent. of the installation costs, I gather, have to be paid by the local authority. Then maintenance and current required by the lights when in operation are both a charge on the local authority. Therefore there is a great deal of opposition from these bodies to be overcome before they will agree to installation of new traffic lights. I am sure that, taking the country's finances as a whole, the cost of a set of traffic lights would work out at much less than that of the time of two and a half constables. Another reason, I believe, why there is resistance to the installation of traffic lights, is that expressed by spokesmen of local authorities who often ask: "What saving will there be on the police?" Of course, at the moment there would not be any saving, because the installation of traffic lights would mean merely that the police who were released would be used for other duties. But where traffic lights are set up surely there might be equivalent adjustment of the establishment of the police. I would suggest that the Home Office should pursue this point with energy. They should appoint local committees to go into the question thoroughly and find out where saving of police man-power could best be effected by these means. By my calculations, if one hundred new sets of traffic lights were installed in the Metropolitan area—and that is not a very large number—there would be a saving of 250 police. That is a larger figure than the total net increase for the past twelve months which has been quoted to-day—namely, 172.
One other possible means of saving police man-power—I know that this is a very controversial point, and it has been raised before—would be by delegating traffic duty, and certain duties such as the noting of parking offences and so forth, to a body of men—call them "traffic controllers" if you like—who are less highly skilled and trained than police officers. I know that objections have been voiced here, but such a scheme has been successfully adopted in the city of Sydney. There, it is the practice to recruit a number of partially disabled ex-Service men, and they relieve the police of the sort of duties to which I have 108 referred. I will not detain your Lordships any longer, but I feel that in the field which I have indicated there could be a great saving in police man-power. This is a very urgent question, and I suggest that no possible avenue should be left unexplored.
§ 4.7 p.m.
My Lords, before the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor replies, I wish to say a few words on the position of police housing in Scotland. As my noble friend Lord Templewood has pointed out, the housing of police in the country generally has a very important bearing on the problem of bringing the Force up to strength. Your Lordships will remember that the Oaksey Committee state in their Report that they found the position with regard to housing less favourable in Scotland, and proposals to meet it, in their view, were not wholly adequate. The relevant sentence in the Report reads:The programme for future police authority building in Scotland seems to us inadequate to meet the requirements of the situation and we hope it will be possible in future to allow police authorities to build on a more generous scale.Those words are to be found in paragraph 289 of Part II of the Report.
As Lord Templewood has said, it is true that in certain boroughs in Scotland recruiting has caught up to establishment, as in the case of Edinburgh. But the position generally in the burghs and in the counties is that there are still shortages to make up. I know, from my own experience, that the housing problem is one which bulks very largely in the mind of the intending recruit. The position in March of last year was that police authorities in Scotland had under construction or in a position to start 111 houses in counties, and 42 in burghs. The Scottish Home Department were able to approve the acceptance of tenders at the rate of between 75 and 100 a year. It is that provision which the Committee characterises as "inadequate." I hope very much that, in his reply, the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor will assure us that all possible importance is being attached to this consideration and that housing in Scotland will be pressed on.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it was. I think, in June last that we had our last debate on this topic. We have had such debates at not very lengthy intervals for a good time past. I do not at all complain that we should have these debates. I regard the matter which we are discussing to-day as one of very great importance. It seems to me it is a platitude to say that if we brought our Police Forces completely up to strength we should be taking the most effective step that could be taken against crime. Therefore, it is a matter which concerns us all here, and all good citizens, to see what we can do to get our Police Forces up to strength. On the other hand, I am bound to say that I rather object that on the occasion of these not infrequent debates I should always be cast for the rôle of the unfortunate toad under the harrow, because, looking at this matter quite frankly, I would point out that this is a problem which we have inherited. Indeed it is, if you attach great importance to the housing problem, as the noble Viscount and I do. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Badeley, attached more importance to the question of pay, but the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, attached at least as much importance to the question of housing as to that of pay. Housing is a problem we have inherited. It is the damnosa hæreditas we have taken on.
I will show in due course the figures of what we have done and I think on the whole it is not bad. But when I see the terms of this Motion—That this House regrets that, notwithstanding the recommendations in the Oaksey Report, more urgent action has not been taken by the Government in order to bring the Police Forces in the country up to, an effective strength"—I say that a Motion in that phraseology is one I certainly will not accept. But I will give your Lordships a review of the entire circumstances and I will set down with complete candour what the position is. I will tell the House how we are getting on and endeavour in the course of my remarks to answer all the questions which the noble Viscount has asked me. If, by error, I omit answering one of them, and if he will be good enough to remind me of it, I will do my best to answer.
110 The true picture is by no means a picture of unrelieved gloom. Like the curate's egg, it is good in parts, but there are very black spots. One of the blackest is the Metropolitan Police, but I think a fair picture as a whole is that we are slowly surmounting and overcoming our difficulties. We are finding how extraordinarily difficult it is to get recruits into this or any other Service at a time of full employment. That is only common sense and all your Lordships will agree with that. The prospect of adequate recruitment and bringing the Services up to strength depends in the main on three things—first of all, the adequacy of remuneration; secondly, the adequacy of housing accommodation; and thirdly, general questions which affect morale apart from those two. Under those three categories we can probably discuss the whole question. Let us see what steps the Government have taken to deal with these matters. In the debate we had on this subject just before May, 1948, your Lordships pressed me to appoint an independent Committee to look into the whole question. Other pressure was brought to bear at the same time and, as a result (I think here I have got my date right), in May, 1948, the Oaksey Comittee was appointed.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
Would the noble Viscount go back a little further, to February, 1948, when, so far as I remember, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, proposed a Committee and the noble and learned Viscount himself turned it down?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Yes, because it was not the right time for it. It was a question of timing. The existing arrangement was to last until the end of 1949, and I said the Committee should be appointed in time to make the recommendations as from January 1, 1950; but no doubt owing to the arguments which the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, used at that time, and other supporting arguments, the Home Secretary decided that he would appoint a Committee at an even earlier date, and I think I am right in saying that the Oaksey Committee was appointed in May, 1948. It was an independent and powerful Committee. I showed my appreciation of the importance of the subject matter by readily consenting that my noble friend Lord Oaksey 111 should be asked to preside over the Committee, and all who know him realise that we could not have had a better and more effective Chairman. He published his Interim Report on April 6, 1949. It is true that he was asked by the Home Secretary to publish an Interim Report, but he was asked by the Home Secretary because the police themselves were most anxious that that Interim Report should be published—and for a very simple reason. They did not want to wait a long time before obtaining the increases in pay to which they thought they were entitled. It has always seemed to me a little odd that criticism should be made of that fact. I remember that criticism was made on a previous occasion, and we had an echo of it today, when we were asked why we published that Report in two pieces. Why not do what was done in the spacious days of Lord Desborough and have it all in one? Incidentally, Lord Desborough made his Report in two parts, but I will pass that. We did it because the police asked for it.
The Report was published on April 6, 1949, and the Government published an explanatory White Paper in May. We adopted all the recommendations in their entirety and they came into force as from July 1, 1949. So there was certainly no time wasted there. It has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, and I think by the noble Lord, Lord Badeley, that we ought to consider circumstances such as the repercussions of the Health Service, and that the police used before to get some privileges as compared with the rest of the people which they do not get to-day. That was one of the very matters which the Oaksey Committee considered. In paragraph 22, on page 10 of Part I of the Report, they set out the case which was put before them for higher wages, and say:(c) that certain solid advantages over other occupations which the police had in the period between the two World Wars—security of tenure, holidays with full pay, free medical and dental treatment and general pension scheme—have disappeared now there is full employment and the whole community is under the wing of National Insurance;That was one of the matters considered, and it was in the light of those questions that the Oaksey Committee came to their unanimous conclusions. Your Lordships 112 asked for this Committee and we appointed a Committee; we provided a first-class Chairman; they presented a unanimous Report, and within three months of the Committee's Report we accepted the recommendations in full. The Committee have considered all these matters; and now are your Lordships asking us to turn round and throw those recommendations overboard by saying they are not enough and we must increase them? I do not say that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, asked any such thing, but, if I understand them aright, the noble Lord, Lord Badeley, and the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, did.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
We must judge by results, and I think that the results of recruiting have shown that the advantages recommended for the police by the Oaksey Report are not sufficient for the purpose of getting enough men.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
In the course of my speech I will consider what the results are. At the present time it is far too early to say what are the results of the Oaksey Report and the recommendations which we accepted. Let me assure the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, that I am not making this part of my speech with any reference to him at all. He said nothing of the sort, and I do not suggest that he did.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
May I intervene for a moment? I have not heard anybody suggest that the Oaksey Report should be overthrown. I have heard only support for most of its recommendations.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Viscount presumably heard the speeches of Lord Templewood and Lord Badeley. Unless I misunderstand those two noble Lords, they both say that the recommendations of the Oaksey Report in regard to pay are insufficient. They support that conclusion by various arguments, including the argument that, whereas in the old days the police used to have this differentiation over the rest of the public, to-day they do not have it, because everyone receives a pension under the National Insurance Act. We also had an observation by another noble Lord indicating that the policeman's life never has been a happy lot, and that he has to spend all night long parading the streets. If those observations have the 113 meaning which I am sure was intended, they must mean that the recommendations of the Oaksey Report are inadequate—indeed, Lord Templewood confirms that he does say that; and he says it in the light of subsequent experience that the Force have not succeeded in getting the necessary recruits. All I say at the moment is that, having accepted these recommendations in Part I of the Oaksey Report, which were given in the light of all the relevant circumstances, I am not prepared to say, on the figures which I will submit to your Lordships in due course, that they have been revealed as being in any way inadequate or erroneous.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
I should like to ask the noble and learned Viscount one question. I did refer to all these inquiries. Is the Committee on the Police Services in England and Wales still sitting?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I rather think it is no longer sitting, but I will find out. The recommendations of the Oaksey Committee will cost £4,000,000 in a full year, and we have accepted them. Therefore, they substantially improve the position.
I now come to Part II of the Report, in which the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, was particularly interested. That was dated October 31, 1949, and covered a large number of conclusions—summarised, they come to no fewer than fifty-five conclusions—some of which would require legislation. I am not going to attempt in this speech to go through them all, but I shall mention some of the more important conclusions, including those about which I have been asked. They deal with a number of diverse matters. One is the standards to be insisted upon. So far as the standards of intelligence and that sort of thing are concerned, the Committee recommended no alteration. I should be sorry to try to meet our great difficulty to solve this intractable problem by reducing the standard of intelligence, and I have not been asked to do so. So far as height is concerned, the Committee indicated that there was no reason why men of 5ft. 8in. should not be accepted. That has been done in London and Birmingham, and I think it should be done in other Police Forces.
114 With regard to methods of promotion and prospects of promotion the Committee pointed out on page 95 that the suggestion that prospects of promotion were bad was not the fact. They state:A statistical enquiry into prospects of promotion … shows that, for men who make the Service a career, there are no grounds for the assertion that the prospects of promotion in the police are poor.They set out the facts. At the present time a constable has to serve five years; he can sit for his examination for the rank of sergeant in the fourth year; and then as sergeant he has to serve two years before he can become inspector. So that, even assuming that he passes all the examinations, he will have to serve five years plus two before he can become inspector. The Committee suggested that instead of serving for five years tine constable should in future be required to serve for only four years; and it would be a corollary of that that the examination he could take would be at the end of three years instead of, as at present, at the end of four years. The Committee then dealt with the Police College, which they noted with approval—and your Lordships may like to know that there is a proposal to start a similar Police College in Scotland. They said that the average age of admission to the first junior courses was too high. In that they were plainly right.
Let me say this general word about all these recommendations. I would much rather get these recommendations carried by agreement than have them imposed. I believe the whole history of the last few years—I think Lord Trenchard will agree with me here—shows that it is better in these matters, where you are dealing with a civilian Force and want to get their confidence and carry them along with you, to put these matters to them and try to get them to agree, even at the cost of some delay. That is what we have done. We have circulated these proposals to the two associations representing the local police authorities, to the Chief Constables' Association, to the Superintendents' Central Committee, and last, but by no means least, to the Police Federation. We have done the same thing in Scotland. We had discussions on January 26, and since then the matter has been broken up, as it were, into working parties. The associations have not yet committed 115 themselves to final views, and the Government have no intention of being rushed. We want to see whether we can do this by consent. I do not want to commit myself as to what we may have to do if we cannot get consent, beyond saying—and this is as far as I can answer Lord Trenchard on this point—that it seems to me that the recommendation which Lord Oaksey makes about the reduction of the five years to four, and the consequent reduction of the four years to three for the examination, is a recommendation on the right lines.
It will be observed that Lord Oaksey's Committee also did this in their recommendations. Being anxious to ensure that these people who are going in for promotion do not escape and dodge the routine and rather dull part of the duty of a policeman, they said that every policeman must serve two years on ordinary police duties, and every sergeant one year of his time as sergeant on ordinary police duties, whereas at the present time the requirement is only one year. Those two recommendations taken together strike one as being particularly forcible, but deliberately I do not say more than that because, as I have said, I would much rather get these alterations by consent.
I now come to recruitment and manpower. I say here that although the situation is by no means as I should like it to be, it does not present a picture of unrelieved gloom. Your Lordships will remember that the police were "frozen"—to use the vernacular—during the war. After the early stages there was no recruitment to the regular Force, and in consequence when the end of the war came the wastage was abnormally heavy—as one would expect. It was not until January 1, 1946, that post-war recruitment began, the regular strength then being 47,600. I am dealing now with the Police Force of England and Wales as a whole, and I will deal with Scotland presently. On April 1, 1950, four years later, the strength was 59,661, an increase of well over 12,000 in those four years. For the county and borough forces in England and Wales, omitting the Metropolitan Police—I will deal separately with them—the figures are these. On January 1, 1946, 33,900, and on April 1, 1950, 44,063. I compare those figures with the 1938 figure for the county and borough police 116 forces, which was 41,000. So we have 44,000 in 1950 as compared with 33,000 in 1946 and 41,000 in 1938. Since the establishments have been raised we are short of our establishments. Yet 30,000 men have been recruited since the war, and as a result of the increase in the establishments we are still 10,000 men short—I am now dealing with the whole country.
Now what has been the effect of the Oaksey recommendations so far as we can see at the present time? They began to operate on July 1, 1949. The average net monthly increase in recruits improved from 20 a month to 237 a month. That is a not inconsiderable rise. There has been a not inconsiderable improvement in wastage. Taking the entire country, for the first seven months of 1949, the pre-Oaksey time, the wastage was 137 per month; in the last eight months, the post-Oaksey time, it was 82.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think I am right in saying that those are figures for the country including the Metropolitan Force.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Not Scotland. By "the country" in this context I mean England and Wales. Now I will come to the figures for the Metropolitan Police. The authorised establishment is 19,700—I am omitting small figures. There is a working party at the present time considering to what figure that establishment should be increased, if we can get the men. It may well be that it should be another 2,000. I do not commit myself to a figure, but it is fairly safe to say that some increase will be recommended. The authorised establishment to-day is 19,700, and the strength on April 1, 1950, was 15,600. That is a deficiency of 21 per cent. On August 1, 1949, the deficiency was rather more—it was 21.6 per cent. So there is an improvement, though I agree in all conscience a small enough improvement. The average intake into the Metropolitan Police—and in these figures I am dealing only with the Metropolitan Police—from January to July, 1949, the 117 pre-Oaksey period, was 88 men a month. From August, 1949, to March, 1950, it was 110 men a month. I have averaged my figures. From January to July the average is 88 a month, and August to March, 110 a month.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
I think the Lord Chancellor will find that in February—which was one of the things which very much worried me—the rate had fallen back to about the pre-Oaksey figure.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
That may be so—I am afraid I have not that figure. So far as the wastage of probationers is concerned—and by "probationers" I mean the young men with under two years' service—the average monthly wastage in the six pre-Oaksey months was 25.28. That figure has dropped in the post-Oaksey period to 20.12, so that what we have is this: we have not anything sensational, but we have small improvements since the Oaksey Report, and on those figures it seems to me quite impossible to say that the recommendations to which the Oaksey Committee unanimously came have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Of course, we have to keep the matter under consideration, but there it is.
My Lords, I promised to deal with Scotland. There, in March, 1950, there were 141 more policemen and 100 more policewomen than in 1938. In addition to that—and here I touch upon a point of the noble Lord, Lord Gifford—many of the policemen in Scotland have been set free to do police duties by the introduction of a larger amount of clerical assistance. That was the theme the noble Lord was discussing when he talked about traffic lights. That, of course, is a mechanical way of doing the same thing, and I entirely agree with him that to any extent we can relieve the police of mechanical duties we ought to do it. The authorised establishment in Scotland is now 7,500, compared with 7,000 in 1938. The strength on April 1, 1950, was 7,067, so it is short of the new authorised strength by something of the order of 500. I have not given your Lordships detailed figures, but I have taken them to the nearest round figure.
Now I come to the next part of the speech—housing.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
The Lord Chancellor asked me to interrupt him if there were any questions he had left out. If the noble and learned Viscount is turning to housing, I should like to point out that he has not answered the first three questions in the first part of my speech.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am coming to that. I said that I should first talk about remuneration, then about housing, and then about general conditions affecting service; and the point which the noble Viscount has just raised will come into that third category. Let me say something about housing. For better or worse, wisely or unwisely, the past policy has been for the police authority not to build houses. It is desired that the police should live as ordinary citizens; and the police, no doubt, desire that they should live as far as possible in their own houses, because they realise that if they live in a police house attached to the police building they will, if they leave the Police Force, have to vacate the house. That was the position. Whether it was a wise system not to take some precautionary measures, by having at any rate a specific number of police houses, I very much doubt—being, as I say, wise after the event. We can none of us have any idea whether or not it would have been better if we had had a larger proportion of houses for married men provided by the police authorities themselves. But, unfortunately, we have not got them and we never have had them. For the single men we relied largely on the section houses, and I will say something about them in a few moments.
I can fairly claim that since the war we have made a tremendous effort in the face of most appalling difficulties. The police author ties in England and Wales have succeeded in getting 2,500 dwellings, the vast majority of which are new buildings completed within the last two years. We are now building houses at the rate of 100 a month, and we are getting tenders for more than 100 a month. If you compare that with the pre-war figure—it may be convenient to have that: the pre-war figure was under 100 a year—it will be seen that the figure of to-day is substantially greater. And may I add that when in regard to building you compare the difficulties of to-day with 119 pre-war difficulties, there is absolutely no comparison? But the Home Secretary is not content with this rate of building. He has said, and I say again on his behalf now, that he would like to see this rate of building greatly extended and if possible doubled.
The responsibility for providing houses in the ordinary sense rests on the local authorities as housing authorities, and although the police have power as police authorities (so long as they get the necessary allocation of houses) to build houses, yet, as the Oaksey Report said, the only satisfactory way out of this difficulty is that the housing authorities should come to our assistance to a far greater extent than heretofore. I know their difficulties. I know that they work on a points scheme and that it often happens that a policeman may not have been a resident in a particular local authority area and consequently does not qualify under the points scheme. But the fact is that the housing authorities have let us down badly on this matter; they have not given us nearly enough assistance in the past. I hope they will do so in the future.
The Minister of Health, in a circular dated 3rd April last, has put this matter to the local authorities most forcibly and pointed out what they should do: they should allocate tenancies of houses of their own; they should make sites available; and they should include houses in their contract. That responsibility rests with the local authority. All we can do as a police authority is, first, to request the local authorities and bring such pressure upon them as we can to allocate a fair number of houses; and secondly, build our own houses under our own power—and that we propose to do to the greatest possible extent.
May I now turn to London, and isolate London from the rest of the country for this purpose? Here we have the greatest difficulty of all with the housing authorities. The Commissioner estimates that he requires 3,200 married quarters. At the end of the war the Metropolitan Police owned 1,100. On March 31, 1949, the Metropolitan Police owned 1,359 houses. Your Lordships will find these figures set out in Appendix VII of Part II of the Oaksey Report. The position up to March 31, 1949, then, was that we had built 215. On March 31, 1950, there 120 were 297 houses under construction by the police authorities, all of which will be completed within the course of the year. I have ascertained, indeed, that *547 will be completed by next month. Tenders for 500 are now being placed. That is rather important: we have now got authority from the Minister of Health who, of course, has to fit our requirements into the whole scheme of things, to build 500 houses a year for the police in London—and that is quite separate from anything we may get from the housing authorities in London.
So much for the housing for married quarters. As regards section houses, the problem, as the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, knows very well, was one not so much of quantity as of quality. In the existing houses there were plenty of vacancies, but they were not fit places for the men. We are, therefore, at work on the reconditioning and improving of these houses at the same time as we are trying to build new ones. We have finished the reconditioning of one, and we have three in hand. We have plans for improving others. We have recently built a new section house in Hackney; we are about to start another section house in Limehouse; and we hope to press forward with these to the greatest extent possible and build others next year. Here, again, I hope that Lord Trenchard will not think that I am blaming him, because he told us in a previous debate that during his term of office, which ended in 1934, he had asked for 800 of these section houses as a mere beginning, and that all he had succeeded in getting was 180. That was in the year 1934—in pre-war days. What a lamentable thing—and I am not casting any stones at anybody when I say this—that we did not use that pre-war period to get our section houses up-to-date!
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
The noble and learned Viscount perhaps forgets that I went to Scotland Yard only at the end of 1931 and that this programme was not passed through Parliament until 1933.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I said nothing to the contrary. I had in mind the noble Viscount's own observations on this matter. He told us the facts in a debate in this House in 1948, and I was trying to quote fairly. I am sorry if I got*See Col. 133121 my dates wrong. The noble Viscount then said:In the last year of my term of office (that is, in 1934), there were 1,200 married quarters. I strongly recommended in those days, as a start—I repeat, as a start—the provision of 800 additional quarters for married men. We could, with every justification, have asked for more, but we kept the demand to a figure which made it a practicable proposition in those days. Out of the 800 I asked for in 1934, and which were sanctioned by Parliament, I understand that only 180 have been provided.That is what I was meaning to say. I was not casting the slightest aspersion on the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard. I was saying that in those days of piping peace, when we had a large number of builders available, when the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, asked for 800, all he succeeded in getting, though no doubt he used a great deal of pressure, was 180.
I pass to Scotland. Scotland has now taken this line, and I think it a wise line: Scotland has resolved that in future the police authorities should provide all the accommodation required by the police. At December 31, 1949, the police authorities owned or rented 2,119 houses and, to carry out their 100 per cent. policy, they would require 7,125. The position is that 356 are now erected or in course of erection, and the allocation was 300 more this year. Scotland are lucky in this respect, as in many others: that in Scotland the housing authorities and the police authorities are, I think, one, and so there is not this divergent interest.
The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, asked me some general questions about the Police College. I have referred to this point more than once as his "King Charles's head." He and I have had controversy about this so often that I hope he will not mind my repeating the argument on these lines for the benefit of some of their Lordships who have not followed the argument as we have. The noble and gallant Viscount was anxious that the police should be well officered and should have a system whereby they might fill all the vacancies in the Police Force from their own body, instead of having, as frequently happens to-day, to go outside for that sort of appointment. He, therefore, evolved a policy, for which there may be much to be said, of having a Police College. I believe he wanted to extend it to the whole country.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
—for the Metropolitan Police. There were some few people who came in by direct entry and some "bright young men" (as I think was the phrase used by the noble and gallant Viscount) were taken in after a very short service. The noble and gallant Viscount claims—and I think the figures support him—that, so far as efficiency was concerned, he obtained very good results; but to get his good results he has had to pay the price. I now come to the other side of the picture, as I see it. The price he had to pay was this: that a large number of the police disliked the idea intensely because they thought, "We have carried the burden and heat of the day. We have walked up and down our heats for years. Now we have some bright young thing coming in who has riot done this, though he is going to get all the 'plums'." Those are the rival arguments. I have tried to state them fairly. Whether I have succeeded or not, I do not know.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
The noble and learned Viscount puts his case in his way. I would only say that I would ask hint to re-read my previous speech on this subject. I prefer to put the case my way. The noble and learned Viscount puts it so that what I did sounds ridiculous.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have not tried to make it sound ridiculous, and I do not think I did. I do not think the idea was ridiculous. I thought it was perfectly intelligible. I understand the reason for it and I respect the noble and gallant Viscount's attitude. But I am pointing out that it did give rise to controversy, and it gave rise to such acute controversy—I say this quite deliberately—that it was one of the matters which most seriously affected the morale of the police. I believe that the police in London were not happy but were a discontented 123 force. I believe that one of the reasons was that, rightly or wrongly—I am quite prepared to say "wrongly"—the police disliked intensely the College which the noble and gallant Viscount, for the best reasons—I can well understand what his reasons were—had started.
I said on the previous occasions that we were not going to introduce any college of that sort. To that assertion I adhere. The position to-day is that a man has to serve five years as a constable and then two years as a sergeant before he can be promoted to inspector. Your Lordships will see that, since recruiting was suspended during the war, it follows that the only people who are eligible for the college to-day are those people who joined the Police Force before the war. Consequently, in looking at the figures of the college to-day, one must remember that one is dealing only with the men who entered the Police Force before the war—that is, before 1939. In consequence, there is no question to-day of getting very young men. But in the very near future, perhaps within the next year or the year after, we shall be seeing eligible men who joined after the war. Therefore we shall be able to get very much younger men. In the future—here I anticipate another question—there is nothing to prevent a man joining the police force at the age of nineteen—and there never has been. If he joins the police force at nineteen (it is unlikely that he will, because he is probably engaged on doing his military service then, but theoretically he can join at the age of nineteen), and if he does his five years' service, at the age of twenty-four he will have served five years, and therefore, will be in time to go to the Police College.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
Will the noble and learned Viscount answer the question I sent to him last week when I asked about the number of junior courses for men under twenty-eight?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am going to give the noble Viscount the figures, if only he will trust me. I cannot forecast the average future age but, whilst on the one hand we must make provision for the young man—and here I recall, without repeating what I said, Lord Oaksey's suggestion that the five years should be reduced to four, and the 124 four years three—we must also have regard to the late-developing officer. We contemplate that when there are several College-trained candidates, it should be made a condition of his appointment to inspector that the man has been through his Staff College course, if I may call it that. It is obvious that a man, after passing his examinations and going through College, should soon thereafter get promotion.
I gather that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, wants 60 per cent. of the junior courses—that is to say, for sergeants—to be for men under twenty-eight. If that were so, and promotion came, say, within two years thereafter, and a situation arose where 60 per cent. of the inspectors were, say, under the age of thirty, it would throw out completely the whole balance of promotion. If 60 per cent. are of that age, what chance will the elder men have? Accordingly, the proportion is most unlikely to rise to that figure. But at the present time—and now I come to answering the specific question of the noble Viscount—when we are dealing only with pre-war candidates, there are no students on the course under 28. There are 43 between the ages of 28 and 35, and 107 who are over 35. The average age of the four junior courses so far held is just under 38. I say quite frankly that we want to reduce that age, and we think that when we start with the post-war recruits, the young men coming in, we shall reduce it.
My Lords, the next question the noble Viscount asked me was whether we could lengthen the course. One argument against lengthening the course is that nearly all the students are married. That means a prolonged separation. To lengthen the course would greatly increase the cost of the college; and, indeed, the length of the course determines the size of the college. By that I mean that to double the length of the course we should have to double the size of the college, and we think that the college is already big enough. We think that to start another college would be too expensive, and at present we do not contemplate lengthening the course. Of course, we shall learn by experience here; we are not going to be absolutely set and fixed. But the noble Viscount will remember that men coming to this college have been thoroughly grounded in police duties; 125 they have not to learn that, as at any rate some of the Hendon men have had to. Consequently, we feel that we should not at present increase the length of the course.
I think I have replied to all Lord Trenchard's questions, but if there is a question that I have not answered, I should be grateful if he would now tell me. Whether I have dealt with them all to his satisfaction, I do not know. I hope so. There is the position. I have set down those figures. Quite frankly, I do not suggest for a moment that they are not a matter for serious consideration. I concede that this is a very important problem, but your Lordships may rest assured that the Home Secretary is deeply conscious of the importance of the problem and is fully determined to do everything he can, through the police authorities, to see whether we can bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. I am not going to blame anybody for the past, but I do say that this problem is one which needs constant attention. If we are fortunate in doing what I hope we shall, I believe that the Government (whatever Government it may be) will in the course of the next few years be able to say that this problem has been solved.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I think we shall all agree that we have just heard, as we always do, an extremely powerful speech from the Lord Chancellor. He adopted a device with which we are not unfamiliar on different fields of battle—what is known as the offensive-defensive. When people feel themselves in a position of considerable embarrassment they often think it wiser to attack rather than merely to answer the attack. The noble and learned Viscount started off in real style by saying that it was not the Government's problem, that it was one that they had inherited, and they did not propose to have the responsibility put upon them. Of course it is true that there has always been a problem in regard to the police. In what I am about to say, I am going to deal merely with housing, because I am not an expert on pay and conditions. I have no doubt that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, will deal with those matters when he comes to reply.
126 In regard to housing there has always been a problem, but I do not think it could properly be said that the problem existed to the same extent in earlier days as it does to-day. After all, as the Lord Chancellor said, before the war it was not the policy of a police authority to provide houses. That, I am sure, is absolutely correct; I do not question it in any way. But what was the reason? The reason is given by the Oaksey Report itself, in paragraph 284, where the Committee say that the position of a policeman or police authority seeking the tenancy of a local authority house is very different from what it was before 1939. A police officer in 1939, with the help of his rent allowance, would usually be able to pay the rent of a local authority house. That is not the position now. In the first place, I have no doubt that his housing allowance does not give him so great an advantage over competitors as it did at that time; and, secondly, the houses are not there. Those are two fundamental changes, and it is our submission that those changes should have been taken into account by the Government in framing their policy.
My Lords, I do not feel—and I am sure noble Lords opposite will forgive me when I say this—that in this matter of police housing the Government have shown quite the zeal that they should have done. I do not think that they have even indicated that they propose to take very strong action in this matter. As your Lordships know, as far back as February, 1948, just over two years age, there was first raised the question of an inquiry into police conditions, including housing. On that occasion, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, laid special emphasis, as anyone who reads his speech can see, on the housing aspect. There is no doubt that he was indicating that housing should be brought within the purview of any inquiry which the Government set up. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor never had the slightest belief in that from the start. This is what he said:I do not believe that the appointment of a Committee will get us one extra house or will improve the accommodation of the police in any way. I think it is for Ministers to decide whether they are to order that some extra priority be given.That was the Lord Chancellor's view. Indeed, the Government did not show any 127 great enthusiasm for a Committee of any kind.
As your Lordships will remember, however, great and continued pressure was brought in this House, and eventually they set up the Oaksey Committee. Anyone who reads the terms of reference of the Committee will be struck by one remarkable fact. The Committee were:to be a Committee to consider in the light of the need for the recruitment and retention of an adequate number of suitable men and women for the Police Forces in England, Wales and Scotland, and to report on pay, emoluments, allowances, pensions, promotion, methods of representation and negotiation and other conditions of service.In that long list of items to be considered, housing is never mentioned, perhaps for the reason given by the Lord Chancellor—that the Government did not think it would be of much use for a Committee to express any views on the subject at all. Yet in the minds of most of us that was the most important of all the aspects which had to be considered in connection with the reform of the police.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Marquess for a moment? I thought it was obvious that we needed every house we could get. All the Committee could do in this matter was to give us some statistics, some figures, and that sort of thing. For the rest, it is common ground that we need every house we can get.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Surely then it would have been natural to include housing in the aspects to be discussed by the Committee. In fact, as your Lordships know, the Oaksey Committee managed to include housing by the ingenious device of bringing it in under the heading of "other conditions." So, in fact, the subject was dealt with, and it is right that it should have been. Nevertheless, my impression, even after listening to the powerful advocacy of the noble and learned Viscount to-day, is that not an enormous amount has been done. For instance, in the Metropolitan Police area, which he said was a black spot—and it is the black spots we have to look at, because they are the ones which most need attention—the position as I understand it is that for that area, on what should be housing for 20,000 men there is a deficiency of 4,000. What 128 is being done to rectify that position? At the time of the Oaksey Report (I understand from what the noble and learned Viscount said that there has been a fractional improvement since), by the police authorities and the Home Office there had been built 167 houses. That means that from the end of the war until March 31, 1949, only 167 houses had been built for the police in the whole of the Metropolitan area. Some 86 more were under construction. At the same time, the programme of new barracks, which had been put in hand by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, when he was at Scotland Yard before the war, was stopped in 1947.
Let us take the case of the local authorities on whom the noble and learned Viscount said the main burden should fall. During that period, just over 70,000 houses were completed in the Metropolitan area, and a further 36,000 are under construction. Out of that great number of houses, only 468 were given to the Police Force during that period. In those circumstances it is not unnatural that recruitment should become much more difficult than it was in the years before the war. So far as I can make out, in a great many parts of the Metropolitan area no priority is at present being given to the Police Force; they just take their chance, as do all other members of the community. That, surely, is a situation which might engage the attention of the Government. I understood from the noble and learned Viscount that the Minister of Health had used his best endeavours, but that he could not get any more done. When he wants to get something done, the Minister of Health is not always very careful, it seems to me, about the methods which he employs to achieve results. In this particular case, he does not seem to have used his usual energy and ingenuity.
The signatories of the Oaksey Report suggested, as the House knows, that 7 per cent. of the houses built by local authorities should be allocated to the police. From what the noble and learned Viscount said it was not clear to me whether that particular recommendation was being adopted.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
We cannot adopt that recommendation. The 129 responsibility is, by law, on the local authority. We could, of course, introduce legislation to take responsibility away from the local authorities; we cannot say what the local authorities would do. We have added the pressure of the Ministry of Health to the observations of the Oaksey Committee to try to induce them to give many more houses to the police.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble and learned Viscount on February 11, 1948, after expressing the opinion that a Committee would do no good said:I think it is for Ministers to decide whether they are to order that some extra priority be given.They have not given any such order.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
They have considered legislation, and they have turned it down. To my mind, that is a very regrettable fact. The people of this country are at present faced with an unprecedented wave of crime. It has been agreed in all our debates, and it is generally agreed, that one of the main causes of that crime is the inadequate supply of police. So this is a matter not merely of making the police comfortable but of providing for the welfare and security of the people of this country. There have been other expenditures, on Government buildings and matters of that kind, which have been willingly approved by the Government, but there has been nothing for the police. I am not seeking to make any debating point on this matter, but it seems to me to bear out the contention of many of us that this matter is not being considered—
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (VISCOUNT ADDISON)
My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess a question? The principle which he is now discussing is very important. Do I understand that he is in favour of the Government issuing instructions to local authorities as to priorities to be applied to houses they 130 build other than police houses, or to police houses only?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
We are talking only about the police to-day. It is just a question. I am only quoting what the Lord Chancellor himself said:I think it is for Ministers to decide whether they are to order that some extra priority be given.Does the noble Viscount the Leader of the House suggest that the Lord Chancellor did not mean anything by that statement?
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I gather that the noble Marquess is expressing what he wishes to be done. This is a very important matter, and I ask him whether he is in favour of issuing instructions to local authorities about the people to whom they should allocate their houses.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
If there is a public service the people in that public service must be provided with houses. They must be provided by the Government, by the county council or whoever it may be, or by someone else. I am not saying that the ideal way is to order local authorities to provide houses. I am saying that houses must be provided. If the Home Office, who I suppose are ultimately responsible, are unwilling to provide them, the Government must consider an alternative. The Lord Chancellor, as I understood him, said they have considered this alternative and have turned it down. I now ask what are they going to do about it. I have quoted figures of houses built and houses needed. It is evident that houses built are woefully inadequate to fulfil—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Will the noble Marquess forgive me for interrupting him again? There are two ways of doing it. One would be to take power to order local authorities to allocate their houses in a certain Way, and the second to give the police authorities power to build houses and give there the necessary permits. That we have done. As I have told your Lordships, the Ministry of Health have authorised the police authorities in London to build 500 houses a year.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
If I may say so, I think that that is the right alternative, but I still do not think that enough is being done. I think they have 131 been far too slow. We raised this question two years ago, and after all this time they are still "woffling" about. They have now decided to build 500 houses a year for the police in London. The police area public service and houses should be provided for them. I still submit that what we have heard to-day is not a satisfactory answer. The Government have not shown sufficient energy and, to my mind, are not showing sufficient energy yet. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor said, and I am sure it is true, that it is very difficult to keep up the strength of the Force in a time of full employment. We can understand that. But in such circumstances there is only one thing to do, and that is to make the conditions under which the police work so much more attractive than those under which other people are employed that they will want to join the Force. I believe that is the method employed in the United States and elsewhere. We give them no advantage, no priority, in the way of ho using.
The noble and learned Viscount congratulated himself and the Government on the improvement in recruiting which is at present visible. It is better that the figures should go up instead of down, but the figures which the noble and learned Viscount gave (though I was not able to take them all down) are very small, and at the present rate it will be a great many years before the deficiencies in establishment are rectified. I feel that the House should make it clear, that further measures are necessary. The crime situation is bad, and I am sure that the public wish to have the situation of the police and their own situation improved. Though I have no doubt that His Majesty's Ministers are now more prepared to look at the matter as one of great urgency than they were when we 132 first raised these important questions, I still feel that unless we keep pushing at them, they will slide back. I do not know what the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, intends to do. He may decide to divide or to refrain; but if he decides to divide the House, I shall go into the Lobby with him, because I feel that that is the only way of getting something done on this most important question.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack again referred to the opinion that when I left the Force in 1935 it was discontented owing to my policy. In self-defence, I want to say that I was asked to go to the Police Force by a Coalition Government—which included Labour. I went, and for three years I had much to do with the Force. I hate talking about this matter, but I should like to say that for the last year I was not unpopular and the police welcomed what was done. As a policeman said the other day, we humanised the Force. Turning to the debate this afternoon, I am profoundly disappointed with the lack of energy shown. To me this is not a political question but a question of the energies shown by whatever Government are responsible. In the answers he gave this afternoon, the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has shown that he does not understand the feelings on the subject in the Force and in the country. Therefore, if anybody will follow me, I will divide the House on this point.
§ On Question, Whether the said Resolution shall be agreed to?:
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past five o'clock.