§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, before resuming our discussion on the police, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will allow me to suggest to him that it was the noble Duke of York, rather than the great Duke of Marlborough, who was undecided whether his army was halfway up or halfway down the hill.
I too should like to thank my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor for introducing this most important Motion in your Lordships' House. Having read all that was said in another place by the Under-Secretary of State on January 29 of this year, and having also heard a certain amount of it repeated here to-day, I should like to say at once how impressed I am that the Home Office and the police are having such great success in maintaining and increasing the numbers and the efficiency of the police. I was also very heartened to see that the Under-Secretary of State in another place had guaranteed what the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, was asking; that is, that the radios and cars for the unit beat patrols were going to be kept up to full strength, and that there was to be no diminishment at all. All this is absolutely as it should be, because here we are fighting a war against crime.
However, on the point of numbers, I appreciate that it is very hard to be absolutely dogmatic whether one needs X plus 100 or X minus 100 to do any particular job at any one moment. But one has to remember that these establishment figures, which are altered from time to time, are not reached arbitrarily by the 1382 Home Office on its own. They are reached after the Police Advisory Board have met and discussed with the chief constable concerned and with Her Majesty'; Chief Inspector of Constabulary—and they are the people who know full well what new methods of crime detection the:, have at their disposal. They work out all these details, and it is only when they have done that that they come to the figures which are recommended; and these figures are recommended to make them efficient.
On this word "efficiency", one thing worries me very much. I have always been worried—I referred to it in 1965 and again at the end of last year—whether we had enough university-trained, educated people, graduates, in the police force. In 1965, out of the then total of 78,000 (I think it was), we had only 28. In the debate a few months ago the then Leader of the House, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, assured me that 80 graduates were being considered for enrolment and recruitment on the special basis that was being discussed. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will be able to reassure me that what the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, suggested will not be the case, and that they will not be going out of the window, because I regard it as a matter of great importance to the police in their drive for efficiency.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that statement.
It is no good being complacent when we are told that the figures for crime detection are better than they were, because we know that the crime rate is still enormously high—far higher than any civilised country should ever expect or want. In fact, in places like Manchester we know that the crime rate is still increasing. It is no good, therefore, as my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor said, telling us that if the unit beat patrol system is equivalent to a 5 per cent. increase in efficiency then this is as good as an injection of 5,000 new men.
The fact remains that if these improved methods are to have the success that they should have, and deserve to have, we should accept the advice of the police authorities who recommend the 1383 establishment numbers and raise the number of police by another 5,000. Then we should have still more efficiency. For instance, we are told that the police are to get an increase of only 1,200 over the fifteen months to March, 1969. In all probability, they would have had far more success in crime prevention and reduction if they had had the extra 5,000 recruits which they might well have expected in the twelve months of 1968. I think the last year for which we had recruiting figures was 1967, and I think the net increase was 4.200—and the figures are steadily going up. It was a great Victorian judge, Baron Bramwell, of the Court of Exchequer, who once said that one should always ask oneself, in this context, "Would he"—that is, the criminal— "have done it if there had been a policeman at his elbow?" My Lords, if we ask ourselves that question honestly, we know the answer perfectly well.
Having considered that, we might also think of the amount of money that is probably stolen in any one year. The noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, said that he thought it was something around £40 million. According to the Fourth Annual Review undertaken by the Security Division Gazette of Great Britain for the year 1966, which was based only on the indictable offences known to the police in the United Kingdom, they worked it out that, conservatively, it was £47 million. Of that £47 million (which, I repeat, represented only indictable offences known to the police; not to mention all the other little things—or big things—we do not know about), only £9 million was recovered. So I should like to re-emphasise what the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, said, that it does look like false economy.
We should then also remember that it is the considered opinion of that great criminologist, who is the Professor of Criminology at Cambridge, Professor Leonard Radzinowicz, with all the scientific aids at his disposal, that only some 15 per cent. of crimes committed are known to the police, actually get into their books. Only 15 per cent., my Lords! This is a considered figure. When this fact is taken into account, too, I think it should deflate our complacency at the improved rates of crime detection. We should not rely on these things too much
1384 To come back to the Metropolitan Police Force, with their 23 per cent. deficiency, is it really fair to allow them only this increase of 500 over fifteen months with which to deal with all their tasks, when they were reasonably hoping to increase by probably more than 1,000 in these twelve months, bearing in mind that in the last year they did very well? They then had a net increase of 800, so it is fair to assume that they would have got more than 1,000 this year had they been allowed to do so. My Lords, 500 new men is all they are going to be allowed extra, against their admitted deficiency of 6,000 officers. That is the deficiency—6,000 officers! Personally, like my noble friend Lord Brooke, I do not consider that it is really good enough, or fair enough to them.
Consider the hundred and one things that they have to do. I was very impressed by the statement by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Area of the myriad tasks for which he had to find men. I took one look at the Cup Final at Wembley in 1966. It was just another day in the year for them, although admittedly a particularly big day; but what did it mean to the Commissioner, having to find men? It is just worth thinking about. He had to find 18 inspectors, 46 sergeants and 473 constables to be at Wembley to manage and keep order, not to mention 2 more sergeants and 9 constables who had to act as interpreters in that linguistic Tower of Babel. This is just one item. But in a force that is 6,000 men deficient it is not easy to produce the best part of 500 men like this; and when we think of all the student marches which go on these days and all the demonstrations which go on at the various Embassies scattered around London, which all mean extra work for the Metropolitan Police, it reinforces the plea that they have a particularly good case for being exempted from this economy, even if nobody else could be so considered.
The recruiting position was very favourable, and has been getting better in the last few years. In the total police force in the country we had a net increase of 2,000 in 1965, a net increase of 3,000 in 1966 and a net increase of 4,200 in 1967. One would have assumed that the increase this year would be greater still, because of the large number 1385 of what one would assume would be good potential recruits coming out of Her Majesty's Armed Services. Should we not seize this golden opportunity to make serious efforts to fill the 18,000 vacancies in the police force while we can? If you do not do this when the opportunity for recruiting is good, there may come the evil day when recruiting goes down. If you have not filled up your granary when all is right, you may look foolish in the long run, when it might begin to empty.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, I want to make just one particular point which I thought might be overlooked, and which indeed has not been mentioned so far. I remember at the beginning of the last war having an argument with a chief constable who had strongly resisted an invitation to recruit two women police officers into his force. It was only the necessities of war that finally obliged him to employ these two ladies. Now, of course. women police have been fully accepted everywhere. They do a most useful job—in fact, I do not know what we should do without them in cases where women prisoners and children are concerned. In about 1958 I was in South Germany, during a British Week, where, to the usual representation of whisky and Scottish pipers there was added a British woman police officer. She was a most attractive person. She stood in the centre of the town square and directed traffic and did more good propaganda for "backing Britain" than anybody I have seen for a long time.
I understand that the present cuts will have a certain effect on the women's side of the police force. I discussed this with a chief constable and he made the point that there are certain obligations to the young women police cadets as there are to the boys, and therefore any recruitment that takes place in the women's side of the police force will have to come first from the women cadets. There has been quite a large recruitment of older women for various duties for which they have proved extremely useful; but if these cuts come and there is to be no increase in the civilian side, then these middle-aged women will no longer be recruited and there will be an imbalance in ages on the women's side in the force. The chief constable to whom I spoke thought that that would be a 1386 great pity. After all, I suppose that young women police are as susceptible to strapping young policemen as nurses are to doctors in hospital; and middle-aged women are not affected in the same way. I think it is a great pity that this stabilising influence of the mature woman in the police force will, apparently, be very strongly affected by the cuts.
Going to a police station in the evening (voluntarily, may I say) I have myself often found the officer there, a man, writing up books, answering inquiries and taking down particulars—all of which could be perfectly well done by an intelligent, properly trained older woman, even on a part-time basis. The man could then be out on the street catching the criminal something which he alone can do and in which women are lot so capable of helping. In my view it would be a tragedy if this development, the employment of the older woman on this sort of a job in the police force, were to come to an abrupt halt. I hope the Home Secretary, when he considers the arguments put forward to-day, will bear this in mind. If the cuts have to be made, if a certain level of expenditure has to be kept, I cannot see why, within that level of expenditure, chief constables should not be given the flexibility they require in their particular areas for their particular difficulties—and especially those chief constables who are doing a very big job in amalgamating services. Keep the cuts. Set your level of expenditure. But do give the chief cons tables flexibility, within that figure, to do what is best for them in their particular part of the country.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, let me get one thing off my chest: I think that our policemen are wonderful. This has been a most useful debate; although shorter than some to which we have been accustomed recently. I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, now that he has returned from the beat (I noticed that he was absent a few minutes ago), for having given us the opportunity to discuss something of undoubted interest to every citizen of this country. But I hope that we shall be careful not to say so much as to turn this discussion into a kind of Propaganda Campaign for the Encouragement of Burglars, by creating an 1387 impression that we do not have a police force adequate to deal with the requirements.
The picture is not entirely black. In the first half of 1967, crime was up by only 2 per cent.—despite the newspaper stories about the increases in crime, despite the immigration into this country of people who are perhaps not accustomed to our ways of life and despite the fact that the population has been increasing and that there has been some increase in unemployment. That increase of only 2 per cent. compares with an 8 per cent. rise in the corresponding period of the year before, and a 5 per cent. rise in the corresponding half-year of the year before that. So the picture is not necessarily so black as we are inclined to paint it. In the first half of 1967, indictable crimes dropped in London by 4 per cent.; in Birmingham by 2 per cent.; in my own county of Essex by 3 per cent.; in Hampshire by 6 per cent., and in Lancashire by 8 per cent. So the preventive work, the deterrent influence, of the police is obviously having some good effect.
My Lords, it is not only the numbers of police that we have to consider. We must take into account also the enormous reorganisation that is taking place in our police forces and the degree of modernisation, that is being effected, leading not only to greater efficiency, but also, if one may use the term in this respect, to greater productivity. We now have better communications than ever before, and we are getting still better communications. I am only sorry that the development of the pocket-radio system has not proceeded quite so quickly as it might. I know that it is proceeding very quickly, and it is a very welcome innovation. The unit beat system, although it is in an experimental stage, is already having a very good effect and is very well spoken of, both by the people and by those in the police forces.
It is said that we are to have a computer system by 1970. I am not one of those people who gets unduly excited about computers—I agree that there are many things they can do; but there are also a good many that they cannot—but their use will probably have a beneficial effect on crime detection and on the arrests of criminals, especially in these 1388 fast-moving days. The regional crime squads are doing excellent work and we now have a number of amalgamations on hand which I think are likely to lead to increased efficiency; particularly, I suppose, when it comes to arresting people just over the border in the territory of another force.
If we look at the numbers of the police—and this is the gravamen of to-day's debate—we find that in the last three years those numbers have gone up by more than 10 per cent., to a figure now well over 66,000. Last year, 1967, it was planned that there should be an increase of 3,000. Actually, there was an increase of 4,000. If we are talking about this year's cuts, that gives us a bonus of 1,000 to start off with. We have to view this against any cuts now proposed by the Government. But I hope that the Government will make the police their first priority when they come round to considering what cuts are to be restored.
I am aware of the position in my own county, which is a very large and populous county with a very large police force. We have been told by the Home Office that we must increase our strength by only 19 bodies during the coming year. There has been some suggestion during the debate that the police are having to take themselves away from crime in order to pay more attention to motorists. I do not complain about that. I think that attending to traffic is one of the most important jobs that our police have to do. There are far more people slaughtered on the roads each year than are killed by violent criminals and I sincerely hope that there will be no diminution of the attention which our police devote to road traffic. I think that the work which they do in this connection is of very great importance.
We have to face the fact that a new class of criminal has emerged in recent years. Crimes are being conceived on a grander scale than was ever dreamed of twenty or thirty years ago. We have gangs with their own intelligence systems, boring into establishments and watching movements there for months before the actual crime is committed. We have criminals systematically tapping police wireless messages and we have them planning their projects for many months ahead. I think we must have more 1389 police engaged on undercover work as well as policemen on patrol. That may mean that we must have more graduates, more people with highly skilled minds working on that particular kind of activity, as well as policemen in the ordinary uniformed section of the force. I think it is rather a mistake for so many police forces to retain a height minimum of 5 feet 8 inches or something near it (there are variations in some parts of the country), because there are many little men with big brains who could be doing an enormous amount of work towards uncovering some of the plots and the plans of organised criminals. If it comes to a question of a physical tussle, well, my Lords, those of us who have seen "The Avengers" on television know that a poor weak woman, as the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, might say, can well hold her own with the toughest criminal if ever she has to do so.
There is one little side issue on this question of the strength of our police forces which I wish to mention. I refer to the early retiring age of so many of our superintendents and chief inspectors. Many of them retire when they are just over fifty. I know why they do it. They say to themselves, "I appear to have got as high in the police hierarchy as I can get. I am still able bodied and therefore I must think of a new career." There are many new careers in these days which are open to retired police officers, and so they get out while they are still young enough to spend ten or fifteen years of activity in the career which they choose. I do not know how we can overcome this difficulty. It might be done by creating some kind of brevet rank, such as we have in the Army for middle-aged gentlemen who will never become colonels. That may be the way to deal with it. But I think it an enormous pity that we should be losing so much highly skilled and experienced brain power from the higher ranks of our police force just because of the automatic retirement age and the lack of inducement to a man to remain when once he has attained what appears to be the highest rank that he can reach.
We have to bear in mind, as has been said before, that a policeman's life is not a happy one. They are limited in their social intercourse, and there are many things which we can do—we may get as 1390 "drunk as a Lord", if it comes to that—which a policeman cannot respectably do. His night work interferes with his family life and I am aware of the complaints which are made by young wives married to policemen. Policemen in the county forces are continually moved around from one village to another. No sooner are their curtains and carpets fitted in a house than the policeman has to say to his wife that in a couple of years they will be moving on to somewhere else. That is most upsetting for a young wife, who may perhaps have young children, and I hope that something may be done to give a man a little more security of domicile than exists at present. I realise that opportunities for promotion have to take into account the varied experience that a police constable has had, and if he stayed too long in one place his efficiency might be impaired.
My Lords, I think that the police are doing a very fine job, and I am very glad that no one who spoke in this debate suggested otherwise. As one who in his spare time presides over a magistrates' court, I have been deeply impressed, not only by the efficiency and ingenuity of the police but also by the absolute fairness with which they present their cases, and their desire to bring out any factor which may be to the benefit of the accused person. The only other thing I would say is that one of these days the economy cuts will have to be reversed, and I hope that the stimulation of our police force recruiting will be among the first of those changes to be made.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ LORD GRANVILLE OF EYE
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend, Lord Leatherland, that our policemen are wonderful, and our police force is probably the finest in the world. Having looked at the interesting Report of the three Working Parties on Police Manpower, Equipment and Efficiency which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, I have come to the conclusion that our police are at present fully stretched, if not overworked; and that in many cases when emergencies occur it is a matter of priority as to which emergency is dealt with by the local police force. I very much hope that when my noble friend the Minister of State replies to the debate he 1391 will tell us whether this reduction—the figures have been given several times—will mean that the road patrols will be operating under strength in the next year of fifteen months. They are doing a magnificent job.
Constant reference has been made to what is happening on the roads. There is an almost complete disregard of the 70 m.p.h. speed limit on the motorways, and one sometimes wonders whether there is any light at the end of the tunnel in respect of this problem. Householders set forth in the morning wondering whether they will ever get home alive because of this endless, ceaseless war which is taking place on the roads, where the numbers of casualties, the killed and injured, are absolutely stupendous, even when we compare them with the figures for the war in Vietnam. I hope that the Government will bear in mind that mobile police patrols seem to be the only thing that deters the speedsters, the individuals who are not concerned with observing the speed limit. The majority of road users in this country are law-abiding and co-operative; they try to keep their speed within a reasonable limit, and they give a cooperation which makes for good motoring. But to deal with the drivers who disregard this limit completely road police are necessary. Of course, we have to safeguard our standard of living, but we also have to safeguard the lives of the people. Therefore I hope that my noble friend who is to reply will be able to tell us that, in spite of the cuts, this service is going to be able to operate at full strength in the coming 15 months.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, mentioned that the number of police in this country was 66,000. May I point out to him that in France, which has a lower population than the United Kingdom and far less crime, the number of police is over 140,000. I believe that our police force is very much under strength and overworked.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, it may be that the French have twice as many policemen as we have; but they also have General de Gaulle. I am quite content with our set-up.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, I should like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, for initiating this discussion. Naturally, we feel alarmed when we hear that recruitment to the police force is to be limited to 1,200 for the immediate future. As the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, rightly said, it is difficult in these troublous times, in the cutting down of public expenditure, to say which are the right priorities, but the Government feel that this is one of the things that has to be limited.
I should like to add my tribute to the police force. I think that we have a wonderful police force. The courtesy we receive from them when caught in a minor infringement of the law, and the way they put their cases in court, is in accordance with the best tradition that we expect of them. It is also in accordance with the "new look" that is being given to the force. Not only is there the general idea of encouraging the good will of citizens to the police, but the force are trying to establish policemen on given beats in areas which they know, so that people can look to them as friends. I remember in my younger days in my own village, when I committed misdemeanours—and I committed many—the policeman, who knew us all very well, would take off his cape and give me a swipe as I passed him. I would look up with all innocence and say, "I have done nothing", and he would reply, "Well, that's for the next time you do something". I think that this is the approach we have to adopt.
I wonder whether we are not being a little mealy-mouthed in protecting the freedom of the individual. The freedom of the individual is most important, but we are dealing with criminals who are well versed in all the privileges that they can claim. Policemen use a certain amount of bluff with a view to getting a confession or evidence, but they are very diffident in handling offenders who say, "I am not going to talk unless I am legally represented". This is a sacred right. But, on the other hand, I wonder whether we are not taking it too far. We might get some infringement of the individual's rights by some members of the force. When all is said and done, in a force of this size, from time to time 1393 there will be someone who goes a little outside reasonable bounds but, by and large, I am convinced that our policemen are reasonable in their approach to the public.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said that more detection of crime depends upon more police. There is a measure of truth in that, but the detection of crime does not altogether rest upon a large increase in the number of police. If we can encourage local authorities, with Government assistance, to increase expenditure on modern methods and instruments of detection, I think it would be agreed that this must also have a big bearing on the rate of crime detection. I have been interested to see that in my own area they are going ahead with a radio communication system. This is a most valuable thing, because when a crime is being committed minutes can be lost by the policeman on the beat having to make contact with headquarters while the criminal gets well on his way. If a "walkie-talkie" is used he can contact divisional headquarters at once. Although these aids towards detection are expensive, they are increasing the productivity of the police force.
Noble Lords who are magistrates will be concerned, I feel sure, at the long time which elapses, in the case of misdemeanours of a minor nature, before the police can prepare their case and bring the culprit to court. I have had instances in my own court where 13, 15 and 16 weeks have elapsed before a case of a minor technical nature is brought to court. The police do not do this deliberately; they have so many other problems to attend to. They are overworked. This is the kind of case where more civilianisation in the administration could assist considerably.
This is rather a pet of mine, and I know it is not accepted by chief constables. I have been in contact for some time with many of the police who are employed on point duty in various parts. They are fully trained policemen, and I am certain that they could be replaced by others who are not trained in police methods. I have in mind a town that I know very well. In Northumberland Street, Newcastle-on-Tyne, a very busy street, policemen are engaged practically 1394 the whole time on point duty in order to let pedestrians get across the roads. Various efforts have been made to get Belisha beacons installed, but all to no avail. A lot of police time seems to be wasted on these duties. I am generalising on this subject, for I realise that it is necessary that at certain points police should be on duty; but in many cases a person not trained as a policeman could perform the duty equally well, and this would free the policeman for the detection of crime.
I feel that the experiment that is taking place with mobile crime squads is a good step forward. I know there is some difficulty because of the expense involved, but I think there has been sufficient experiment in this type of thing for it to become an established fact in many of our police forces. These policemen are moving about in police cars, some in uniform but in many instances in plain clothes, with a walkie-talkie in operation, and a policeman on the beat is able to make direct contact with his divisional headquarters and to tune into the respective mobile squads. I am sure this is a big step forward and will greatly help our police to combat the advanced type of criminals we are now up against.
I think that, by and large, the pay and conditions of the police to-day are reasonable and sufficient to attract people. Among the police that I know, I find there is no general complaint about this. They realise the nature of the task that they undertake when they go into the force and are prepared to face some of the inconveniences referred to by my noble friend Lord Leatherland—the matter of shift duty and transfer at short notice to another part of the division. I think that in this respect most chief constables are now adopting a more liberal attitude than was done previously. At one time, as your Lordships well know, a constable might receive only a week's notice or a few days' notice before being transferred. Now, judging by the forces with which I have contact, there is a more enlightened line of approach to this matter.
I feel that the action of chief constables in allowing members of the force to purchase their homes when they are coming towards the end of their service, is again a step that is calculated to encourage recruiting. I want to finish as I began, by paying great tribute to our 1395 police forces. Everywhere one meets policemen, whether in court or outside court, my experience has been that, whether they are giving evidence or merely advice, they do their utmost to be impartial in the way that we should expect.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I propose to be brief, because I intend to stick to the subject of the Motion and not to engage in a general police debate. Also, this sorry story—and it is a sorry story, whatever excuses are made for it—has been so fully covered by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, and other noble Lords, that I do not propose to range widely on the matter of figures and so on. We do not yet know what sort of case the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is going to make for the Government, but I cannot imagine that it will be very different from the case made by the Joint Under Secretary in the other place. I think we must assume that that is the Government's answer—plus, of course, Lord Stonham's well-known aptitude for occasionally giving us little tit-bits of extra information.
What has come out of this debate and has not been disputed anywhere is that the population here is increasing; that in spite of the rather selective figures produced by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, crime is increasing, and that because of these two factors Home Secretary after Home Secretary has said that the police force is undermanned. It is no good saying that now there are new ways of detection, new instruments and so on, if you have not the men to use them. We know that in certain cases there are not enough police officers to use the machines, and so forth. Exactly the same thing applies as regards road patrols, which two noble Lords have mentioned. It is no good having cars if you have not the men to put in them. It has never been denied—the present Home Secretary has not denied it—that we are grossly undermanned in our police forces, and, as the noble Lord said, this is nowhere worse than in cities like London. I may say that we appear to be undermanned outside your Lordships' House. In the last two or three days two noble Lords have lost their cars from outside the House, probably because there are 1396 not enough police to look after them, particularly when we have an all-night sitting.
I want to follow the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, in one respect. What happens in the police when they are undermanned? What happens in the C.I.D. when they are undermanned? Their case-load in certain cities is appalling, and it is not possible to cope with it properly. It is exhausting work, and it is not physically possible for the men to do it. Week-end after week-end both uniformed and C.I.D. men are put on duty because somebody wants to throw a bomb at somebody else, or there is a procession of students. What happens? Sooner or later, unless a man is very dedicated and his wife is a very good wife, she says to him: "I never see you. We have no family life. The children do not see you. We never know for sure when you are going to be here." And the man retires. That is the wastage, and it comes about largely through under-manning. This is a human matter. It is no good arguing about what may happen in the future; this is happening now, and the wastage, purely from overwork and the families not being treated as families should be treated, is appalling. Of that there is not the slightest doubt.
Here, at this very moment, the Government are going to cut recruiting—I am sorry; I must be careful of this word "cut"; it means so many different things to different Ministers in the present Government—are going to make a cut in the increase of recruiting. Let us get our facts right. Here at this particular moment, when the police are under strength, for two reasons there is an unexampled opportunity for bringing the police more up to strength. They have both been mentioned by different noble Lords. One is that there is an unfortunately high level of unemployment, and this is a job "for keeps". If one wants to go into the police, that is an incentive to one to join. At the same time, this Government are sacking a lot of ex-Servicemen, men who are used to discipline, men who in many cases are extremely intelligent. This particular moment, when they are coming out of the Services, is the moment when they might be enticed into the police. What is going to happen now? They are going 1397 to be told, "No, we are taking cadets and we are not allowed to take any more. Come back in a year's time". Assuming that the Government alter their mind in a year's time, what will have happened to those men? They will have gone into other jobs and will not be prepared to change.
So at this particular moment, when we could make a real impression on under-manning, the Government say, "No". It is rather extraordinary. In the view of many of us, the Government have left us virtually defenceless overseas. It cannot really be true that they also want to leave our citizens defenceless, or comparatively defenceless, at home. The first duty of a Government is to look after their people. We are being told again and again by the Government on this question of cutting police recruiting, "Ah! but you see, everyone must take their share. This is the moment when we have overspent, and everyone must suffer". That sounds all right, but it is very unselective, and it is no good pretending that this matter has been thought out. We know perfectly well what has happened. There was devaluation. No proper consideration had been given to what would happen when devaluation occurred. Ministers were told, "You must take your cut". It has been quite obvious. Maybe the Home Secretary decided to make this cut as the easiest cut to make. My Lords, I believe him to be entirely wrong, and I find it singularly astonishing that this is the cut the Home Office choose—the Home Secretary chooses—when for so many years he has been adviser to the police and knows their problems due to undermanning.
It has been said that the Government cannot go back, which I suppose means that the Home Secretary will not be allowed to change his mind—cannot go back on the limitation for fifteen months, because it has been announced. My Lords, what nonsense! If the Government wanted to go back on it they could go back and economise elsewhere, and so could the Home Office. In view of what has been said this afternoon, I ask the Government to reconsider this matter. If you do not get more police now you may find recruiting difficult in a couple of years time. Meanwhile, more and more police will leave the police force 1398 because they are overworked and their families will not stand it.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, asked what has emerged from this debate. I think that the most notable thing that has emerged from it is the fact that we have now had 11 speeches from your Lordships, all about our police forces, and there has not been a vestige or scintilla of criticism of the police from anyone. I think that is the most notable thing. The second thing is that there has been some, I think a regrettable amount, of Party bias about the speeches, certainly the last speech, but not very much. I hope that this shows improvement, so that we can look forward to the day when we can discuss the police without any kind of Party bias at all.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, started off by saying that there was unanimous agreement that the likelihood of detection was the best deterrent. I entirely agree; and with the figures for crime at a record level, and the tasks confronting the police growing ever more onerous, the decision to restrict the growth of police manpower is a major one. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, for providing this opportunity to debate the issue, and for me to explain the circumstances in which this step was taken. I only regret that, in answering some of the arguments, I shall myself have to make the contrast between the situation now and the situation when noble Lords opposite were in power and had the opportunity to do something about the situation which they now so emotionally deplore.
First, to turn to a detailed justification, I would ask your Lordships to consider the general background against which the decision had to be taken. The need to reduce public expenditure has been referred to by several noble Lords, among them the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, and my noble friend Lord Rowley. The need was to reduce public expenditure by hundreds of millions of pounds. The noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, said that in considering these matters he thought that the cuts in total were not enough, or might well not be enough, and also he referred to the undoubted fact that we all have our pet subjects. We all, more 1399 or less, are willing to say, "Yes, we agree that there must be these reductions. The nation is being demanded to make them. But not this particular one". We could have debates every day of the week picking out the single items and making out a very good case against having any cuts at all in these particular fields, and we should at the end of the day find that it was utterly impossible to cut anything. Indeed, we should have made such an overwhelming case that we should have to increase expenditure.
There was this cut of hundreds of millions of pounds, out of which it was decided that there had to be a cut of £6 million in the cost of the services for which the Home Office are responsible. That was our contribution. The total anticipated expenditure on Home Office services during the coming financial year was £470 million, of which £256 million, more than 54 per cent. of the total, was attributable to the Police Service. The figure of £256 million compares with £220 million in the current year, the year we are now in. My noble friend Lord Granville of Eye spoke of cuts. My Lords, this is a strange kind of cut when your expenditure in a single year increases by £30 million. And that £256 million compares with £160 million in 1963–64, the last full year during which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, was responsible for police expenditure.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, the noble Lord will not forget the drop in the value of money under this Government, will he?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I shall not forget anything of this kind. But we are talking to-day about £6 million, and in the last year for which the noble Lord was responsible—when the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, was Minister of State—it was £106 million less. It is quite right and proper to point these things out, and no one can pretend that there have been changes to that extent. It makes me wonder, in view of what has been said to-day from the other side, how on earth they got on at all. Were there any policemen? What happened? Talk about encouragement to burglars, which my noble friend Lord Leatherland mentioned! The fact is that the present Labour Government are spending 66 per 1400 cent. more on the police forces than the last Conservative Government—I repeat, 66 per cent. more. This is a truly remarkable change in a little over three years. This fact, and the results which have been achieved from that large increase, I suggest should be borne constantly in mind.
Because of their responsibility in the field of crime if the Police Service had made no contribution the whole weight of that £6 million cut would have fallen on other people's "pets"—the children's services, the prisons, the fire services, the Probation Service and other similar departments which, collectively, account for the other 46 per cent. of the total expenditure and which would therefore have been in a much worse position to bear it. Indeed, a cut of £6 million falling on these organisations alone would have brought progress to a standstill and would have meant, in some cases, regression. Therefore we had no choice but to look to the Police Service to provide a reasonable share of the required saving.
Naturally the vastly greater part of expenditure in the Police Service is attributable to manpower costs. For instance, out of the total estimated police costs for next year no less than £188 million, or more than 73 per cent., is directly accounted for by wages, salaries and superannuation. Of the remaining £86 million, a substantial part is dependent, either directly or indirectly, on numbers. For example, the more policemen, the more police houses are needed and the greater the staff to train the recruit intake.
It is inescapable, therefore, that if you are to limit the increase in police cost you must limit the increase in police manpower; otherwise you would have to concentrate the whole weight of the cut on the remainder of the service. This would have brought to an end many of the activities on which the future efficiency of the police will depend—indeed, some of these expenses are themselves directly concerned with saving manpower. For instance, the Research and Development Branch of the Home Office is conducting a number of manpower studies, with a view both to increasing total strength by removing causes of wastage and to improving the efficiency of the manpower that actually 1401 exists. Similarly, the computer project, on which large sums of money are expected to be spent in the next few years, will provide a comprehensive and highly efficient system of maintaining and sorting fingerprint records and criminal data. This would have taken an enormous number of police officers and civilian employees to achieve by manual means, if they could achieve it.
My noble friend Lord Rowley asked about equipment, and especially personal radios. Plans to acquire the vehicles and wireless equipment needed for unit beat policing are being pressed forward regardless of the economic situation. My noble friend Lord Popplewell asked whether local authorities should be encouraged to spend on equipment. Police authorities have been advised not to make savings through reductions in orders for cars and equipment. To have reduced or cancelled such expenditure, which has the express aim of creating an efficient performance of police duties with less manpower, would have been to set at risk the whole efficiency of the Police Service in future years, when the problems facing the police may be even greater than they are to-day. It would certainly have excited less comment if we had quietly re-phased the equipment programme, but it would also have mortgaged the future. So we decided there had to be a temporary limit—not a cut, but a limit—on the increase in manpower.
This limitation has to be considered in relation to present police strengths, because it was mainly on the expectation of a substantial increase of strength during the coming year that the decision to restrict manpower was founded. Had the rate of recruiting over the past year been only moderate, and had the wastage rate risen in comparison with the previous year instead of showing, as it did, a substantial drop, we might have been justified in leaving the manpower figure to find its own level, unfettered by any Government imposed restrictions. But this was very far from being the case. Total recruitment during 1967 was higher even than in the record year of 1966, more than 1,100 higher than the rate for 1965, and more than 3,000 higher than the rate for 1964. Against this, wastage last year was nearly 1,400 less than in 1966.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, spoke about wastage. Of course wastage, par- 1402 ticularly of new, young policemen, is most regrettable and has been a great problem, but the picture he pained is not a true one. I am glad to say that the wastage has been drastically reduced. If these trends had continued (and there was reason to suppose that they would) we should have been justified in expecting a net increase, allowing for wastage, of some 5,000 police officers over the: coming year. Much as the Government would have welcomed this proof of the success of our efforts, an increase of this magnitude would have had financial implications which the Government, under present economic conditions, were unable to accept. The figure of 5,000 additional police officers represents, in financial terms, an increased expenditure of the order of about £7½ million a year. Unless, therefore, the cost of the Police Service was to rise to an extent which would nullify the effect of savings made—often with great hardship—in other fields, some form of manpower restraint had, however reluctantly, to be imposed. But it is restraint and not a reduction. Police manpower will continue to rise. That is very different from the position in 1960, when there was an actual drop in police strengths by 460. There was no debate from the Government side in January, 1960, when these conditions were so disastrous. I initiated a debate on the subject of police pay, and some of your Lordships will remember that the increases which we recommended in that debate were approved by the interim report of the Royal Commission, and immediately implemented by Her Majesty's Government. Those increases "stopped the rot" and the numbers of police increased over the next three years. But we have to-day more police officers in England and Wales than ever before—over 10,000 more than the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, could take pride in at the end of 1963, when he was Home Secretary.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, asked what happened when the police were undermanned. He described graphically and movingly this human problem and the effect on the wives and on family life. He should know, because in his time the problem was 10,000 men more acute than it is now. The police force was 10,000 men smaller. These points have to be made, because this problem 1403 should be put in what I think is its proper perspective.
In the last three years we have increased the Police Service by 9,207—an average net increase of more than 3,000 a year. The Metropolitan Force alone has increased by 1,679 officers. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, stressed quite rightly the importance of the civilian manpower, and I interrupted him in an endeavour to correct a figure. I now find that we were both right, but I misunderstood him, and I apologise. However, I want to give the figures now. There has been a corresponding increase in ancillary civilian manpower, and all these increases are, in effect, replacement of policemen, because they are doing the police work. In the last three years the number of civilians employed by the police has increased from 15,767 to 20,045—a 27 per cent. increase.
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord before he leaves that particular point? I wonder whether he could comment on this fact. When one sees televised some central police station—and, indeed, when one walks past the New Scotland Yard building—one is surprised to see what a large number of young men appear to be manning telephones and doing jobs that one would expect normally to be done by girls. Has the noble Lord any comment to make on that point?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I do not know whether the young men manning the telephones are police officers or civilians. It is impossible for me to say.
My Lords, one cannot see clearly in the Scotland Yard building, but on television I have always seen them in blue uniform.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, this replacement of police officers in office jobs by civilians is increasing, and it is generally thought to be wholly desirable, unless the job requires that training and expert knowledge which only a police officer has. As I have said, there has been this large increase of well over 4,000 civilians in three years, a 27 per cent. increase. Then the number of traffic wardens has increased from 1,562 to 4,225—a 170 per cent. increase in three years. In addition, the number of police 1404 cadets has risen from 3,983 in 1965 to 5,135 at the beginning of 1968; that is, an increase of 29 per cent. in three years.
The noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, asked me a number of questions on this point, and I should like to try to reply to them now. In particular, the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, read some letters from one or more chief constables, and in particular he said of one writer: "Must this chief constable stop enrolling cadets?". The answer, my Lords, is No.
§ LORD SHAWCROSS
My Lords, I think that was not the point. The point was whether a force which has a large cadet force, the numbers of which are sufficient to provide the permitted increases in establishment, will have to stop recruiting from outside. I asked that question particularly, if I may make the point now, in relation to graduate recruitment and "A"-level recruitment. The question is not so much whether the graduates are going to be thrown out of the window, as whether, in that kind of case where there are sufficient cadets to build up the permitted increase in establishment, the graduates from outside will be still encouraged to come in by the door.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, let me deal first with the graduate point, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, when he referred to a statement made by my noble friend Lord Longford in November last year. That, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, is going on unchanged and unaltered. Fourteen graduates have already been, as it were, allocated, approved, out of the original number mentioned by the noble Lord, and within the next few weeks another 18 candidates are to be interviewed for the remaining six places. That makes a total of 20, which was all we originally hoped for. This was announced only twelve months ago, and it is a very satisfactory response. We do attach the greatest importance to intake of graduates in this way. It has particular relevance and even greater importance, if we are going to restrict numbers, to take what steps we can to ensure that we have as many new recruits as possible of the highest quality, in order that in due course, 1405 having gained experience, they can take over the important and increasingly complicated jobs which will arise.
May I now return to the cadets, because I am anxious to get this information over, even though it does not precisely meet the noble Lord's point? No chief constable will have to stop enrolling cadets unless he would prefer to attest non-cadets. He can attest cadets, even if this takes him over his quota; but he must then wait until wastage brings the strength back to the proper level. The same applies to the enlistment of graduate recruits. If it is the case—I do not know that it is—that the chief constable cannot start so many cadets in training, the answer is that there are no restrictions announced beyond March, 1969, and there is nothing to prevent him from enlisting fresh cadets for training and eventual acceptance into the force in two or three years' time.
One point (I think it is a point of misunderstanding) that I should like to clear up was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, with regard to civilian recruitment, and in particular the noble Lord referred to the Home Office circular of, I think, January 18, which said that there would be a general standstill on civilian manpower but that strictly limited increases would be considered in special circumstances. On February 6 we sent out another circular on the same subject, inviting forces to tell us what civilians they feel they need in the coming year, and indicating what we considered to be the priorities. And we are already working through the returns which have arrived and assessing to what extent needs can be met consistently with not undermining the general level of savings required. There is no firm clampdown on either cadets or civilian manpower. We are going to be selective about it, but I would suggest, with all respect, that any chief officers of police who are not fully aware of what the conditions are—and I rather doubt whether there are any—certainly ought to know that they can get in touch with the Home Office and find out; and I would suggest that they do so.
On the other point about cadets which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, raised, it would not be correct to say that where the attestation of cadets absorbs the whole 1406 quota there can be no further recruitment. The quota relates only to the additional strength. Recruitment will continue at whatever rate is necessary to replace wastage; and this of course applies also to the police force as a whole. It is not the case that there has been a complete clamp-down on recruitment. Any force, even those that are very little below establishment, has the authority to recruit to replace wastage.
§ LORD SHAWCROSS
But not, as I understand the noble Lord—and I think there is misunderstanding about this—if there are a sufficient number of cadets who can be brought into the force to make up the wastage.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, if cadets are ready to go in as adult officers, then of course one would expect the cadets to be brought in; that is what they are trained for, and it would be rather extraordinary if they were not used. I am not saying that a force which is virtually at establishment now can recruit over the top, but it can introduce whatever new officers are needed, either from cadets or from outside, or indeed from other forces., in order to replace wastage.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will excuse my intervening, because this is an important point, and I think that we may be slightly at cross-purposes. Paragraph 5 of the circular of February 6 says:The Secretary of State wishes cadets to be reassured that, provided they prove suitable, they will be attested, but where this results in police strength exceeding the permitted level steps will have to be taken as soon as possible to reduce the strength to the appropriate level through the normal process of wastage.As I read that paragraph it means that in certain circumstances there must be an absolute ban on recruitment of candidates from outside the police cadets.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I was quoting the latest circular, the paragraph headed "Police Strength", which seems to me to be dealing with precisely the point referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross.
§ LORD STONHAM
I can only say that what I have just said is the very latest information I have on these points. I have obtained the answers particularly. I did not have the information before I started. That is all I can say on these points.
One additional question was put to me with regard to the Tees-side Force, where there is a request for additional civilians and police officers. That is under consideration. I cannot say what the decision will be. But I would emphasise that it is not the only force which has represented that it has special problems, and which therefore is being considered. The same remark applies to the plea which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, made for the new amalgamated forces. As he will know, that covers the greater part of the police forces; they have either recently been amalgamated or are about to be amalgamated: in other words, they are in some way or another concerned with amalgamations. It is the case, when one looks at a number of forces which are proposed to be put together, that their position in relation to manpower is not the same. They vary, and it is to be expected that when the teething troubles are over there will be a considerable saving of manpower and another economy.
When cadets become eligible to be attested, or where applicants, both police and civilian, had been offered definite vacancies in a force before the receipt of Home Office instructions and it would be breaking faith not to accept them, we are accepting them; and if for that reason it means that some forces temporarily exceed their permitted numbers, they will do so; but, as was just mentioned, they have to allow the numbers to get back to the proper, authorised strength through normal wastage.
I have put these facts before your Lordships—and they are the facts—but I realise that it can be argued that it is difficult to reconcile these things with the overall deficiency on paper strength of over 17,000 men and women. It is a paradox that although we have more police officers than ever before, the deficiency compared with official establishments is greater than ever before. But there is a simple explanation for this apparent contradiction. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has described the custom 1408 in fixing establishments—how before he took over, it had been the custom that the establishments had to stay as they were unless a force could show that within the next year or two it could recruit the extra people that it thought it needed. Then the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, decided that if the forces applied for his approval of establishments, not limited to recruitment prospects but related to what they really needed for adequate police coverage, he would be prepared to approve of them. This was carried on by my noble friend Lord Stow Hill, his successor.
That is the reason for this great upsurge in establishment. In 1964, the national authorised establishments totalled 89,616, and at the end of last year we had reached that number in police strength. In other words, if the paper establishments had not been altered we should now have reached the full establishment of 1964. But in fact the total establishments have been increased by 17,820, and they are now 107,436. Until now these establishments have been computed by chief constables and Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary in the exercise of their professional judgment. But the precise number of officers needed to police an area of any given size and characteristics is by no means an easy matter to judge. Indeed, what exactly is efficient policing itself, and when is finality reached? Is it when crime has sunk to a negligible figure and traffic accidents have been reduced to nil, or is there some intermediate stage beyond which the addition of more police officers would merely introduce the law of diminishing returns?
These are difficult questions, and it is not surprising that ad hoc attempts to assess ideal establishments have produced varying standards of police cover throughout the country. It would certainly be helpful to us if a more objective and scientific method of assessing establishments which would relate numbers of police needed more closely to the actual characteristics of the area, could be devised. This is what we are trying to arrive at through the Home Office Research and Development Branch.
I cannot say whether, when we are able to achieve that, the then establishment will be larger or smaller than the total of the existing force establishments 1409 to-day. All I can say is that the existing paper deficiency of 17,000—and it is a paper deficiency—should be looked at with reserve until we have found a method of calculating more accurately how many policemen there should be. And in these calculations the recently introduced mobile systems of policing will be an important element. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said that this had been introduced into comparatively few places. Mobile unit policing this month will cover 62 per cent. of the whole country by population, and by the end of the year it will cover 80 per cent. of the whole population. I dealt with this system in some detail in the debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Rowley, and I do not need to say much more, except that the system fully justifies our earlier expectations.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, am I not right in thinking that this may increase the efficiency of the police, but it does not mean that you need less police?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is saying that it increases the efficiency but does not mean you need less manpower. That is questionable, and his noble friend in the course of his speech even suggested that it was a saving of manpower equal to 5,000 men.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I think that that is what the Under-Secretary of State suggested in the debate at the end of January.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I was not prepared to quote any figure. But if the noble Lord will allow me to develop what I want to say, because I know that some of my friends are interested in these figures—they have asked for them, and I propose to give them—this month 3,000 patrol cars and 10,000 personal wirelesses will be in use. There will be 800 more cars and 8,000 more wireless sets added during the year. That is 18,000 wireless sets by the end of the year.
My noble friend Lord Rowley asked me what was the position with regard to cars and radios in the Metropolitan area. At the beginning of the year we had 92 patrol cars for unit policing and 598 personal radios. During the year we shall have added 192 more cars and 1410 1,381 more radios, which means, in effect, that at the end of the year there will be roughly three times as many cars and three times as many personal radios in London as there were at the beginning of the year. I do not think that any noble Lord would say that that is not rapid progress, or would argue that the money could be better spent in some other way.
While I am on this subject may I just deal with the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, with regard to women police? Women are included in the same arrangements as the men. I think she asked for flexibility in this matter. It is for the chief constable to decide how he divides his equipment between the men and the women. The noble Baroness asked, with particular reference to the older women, whether there is an imbalance of age if too many young cadets are taken on. We are at present dealing with only one year, and the effect cannot be great on the age structure. As the noble Baroness is aware, the number of women police officers is more relative to the number of men, but last year there was an increase of 338 policewomen in the Service as a whole, which was an increase of something over 10 per cent. This shows a satisfactory trend.
On the subject of equipment, police authorities have been told that there is no Government restriction on the purchase of the additional equipment needed to develop unit beat policing to its maximum extent. Where the system is in full operation the practical results have been very encouraging. For example, we have evidence that the rate of observed incidents rises sharply, that the flow of criminal intelligence increases, and that more crime is detected by officers on the beat. The "response" time—that is, the time taken for the police to arrive on the scene in response to a call—has been substantially reduced. These are great and valuable increases in efficiency and in service. In addition to this, we have reports of reduced crime following the introduction of unit beat policing which it will be logical to connect with the new system.
It is fair to say that these results have been achieved with the expenditure of considerably less manpower (this point 1411 was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton), than would have been needed to effect policing by conventional means. It is difficult to quantify precisely how much manpower is saved by this means. All I will say is that, compared with conventional methods, we are certain that the savings will be numbered in thousands of police officers. Apart from this fact, wherever these methods have been introduced they have led to a significant rise in the morale of police officers. So far as I am aware—and I think I can claim to be pretty close to the police—I never remember their morale being higher than it is now, which is something to be thankful for.
Another source of improvement is the amalgamation of police forces with which the Home Secretary is still pushing ahead. The leader in The Times of February 21, commenting on the Lancashire amalgamation scheme, said:As a result of the amalgamation there will be a better communications system in the area, better promotion opportunities and higher morale. Above all, there should be an increase in operational efficiency.I am convinced that this is true—it is already proving so in other areas—and, like the unit beat system and many other things which we are doing, it means a better service with fewer men.
I reject the suggestion that this reduction in expenditure was ill-thought-out, or a panic measure. It is true that we had to make economies, and that has been generally accepted. But I think I have shown—and I believe your Lordships will agree that I have given abundant proof—that the country can rest assured, on the evidence of the last three years and on the results with regard to the police, that this Government, far from neglecting the Police Service, has brought it to a higher level of strength, efficiency and morale than ever before, and with more and better equipment than has ever previously prevailed; that we have the interests of the Service very much at heart (this is particularly true of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary) and are promoting its further development, not cutting it back; and that we are turning our minds to the more scientific methods, both in operations and administration, which the modern world makes both available and 1412 requisite. In saying this, however, I would emphasise that the credit is due to the Police Service itself—the finest in the world; not one of the finest—to the police authorities and others concerned with the Service, for all they have done in recent years to bring the Service to the admirable state in which it now stands.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, I should like to express my warm personal thanks to the noble Baroness and to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate which I initiated, and to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for the trouble which he has taken—although he has not convinced me, and may not have convinced other noble Lords. In recent months we have had a series of Wednesday debates which have continued over a very long time. I have not from experience become convinced that the longer they have gone on the more valuable they have become. I think possibly I carry noble Lords with me in saying that a debate which lasts for nine hours is not necessarily three times as valuable as a debate which lasts for three hours. I am inclined to think that if we could get back to this period of time in compact debate, your Lordships' House might be doing just as great good as by sitting on late into the evening in these Wednesday debates.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said that he looked forward to the day when we could discuss the police without any Party bias. Frankly, I do not think that it will be a good day, whatever Government are in power, when any criticism of the actions of that Government towards the police or anything else can be dismissed as due to Party bias. In the debate this afternoon there have been critical comments, not from one side of the House only, though granted they have been more muffled when expressed by some of Lord Stonham's noble friends. There have been criticisms from all sides—except from the Liberal Benches, whose usual occupants seem to have been so overcome by the all-night Sitting that those Benches have been empty for hours.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, in winding up said that there were more police officers than ever before in this country. That is quite true. It is 1413 equally true that there is more crime than ever before, so we cannot rest content. He twitted me, if that is the right word, with the fact that police Estimates are now £100 million higher than they were in my time. I am well aware that during the interval police pay has increased on grounds of comparability with pay in other comparable professions. I am well aware—indeed I laid stress on this in my speech—that police numbers have increased considerably during the last three years, because in the days of Conservative Government there was a lower level of unemployment. That made it harder to get recruits for the police and easier to lose policemen through wastage than is the case in days of greater insecurity and uncertainty in industry and commerce.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, if the noble Lord remembers, the rate of unemployment at the beginning of 1961 was higher than it is now.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
Yes, my Lords. That was just about the time when, following the Report of the Royal Commission, a very substantial increase—and an overdue increase—was made and brought into effect very quickly by my noble friend Lord Butler of Saffron Walden. But I should prefer that this debate ended with the maximum possible degree of unanimity, rather than with mere dissension; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said, it has been a most striking fact that there has not been one word of criticism of the police during this debate.
It was not so many years ago that the public, encouraged, I fear, by the Press, were quick to criticise any fancied shortcoming among the police. It must be gratifying indeed to the police, and a powerful assurance to them that they are doing their job well, that we seem to have come right out of that unhappy period, and nowadays I have no doubt whatever that public and Parliamentary opinion is strongly on the side of the police. If there is any individual short- 1414 coming, as there is bound to be from time to time in a force of 90,000, it is recognised that that is an individual weakness and not a criticism of the police as a whole. I hope that this debate will give encouragement rather than otherwise to all ranks of the police. I wish many police officers could have been here to listen to it. I should just like to add a word for the special constables, who have hardly been mentioned. I take it that there is no restriction 3n the further recruitment of special constables, and I hope that in some forces—though there are many duties which special constables cannot perform—it will be possible to have campaigns to recruit more special constables, to relieve the regular forces of work which can be squally done by specials.
I should just like once again to thank noble Lords who have taken part for their valuable contributions, and to say that it may be necessary in months to come—perhaps at the end of 15 months—to revert to this subject. Meanwhile I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.