§ 3.8 p.m.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the purpose of reorganising the special constabulary in the city of Glasgow in such a way that no man can attain a rank higher than constable irrespective of his powers of leadership, experience or length of service.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (Lord Kirkhill)
My Lords, the six police forces which came together at 16th May 1975 to form the Strathclyde police had differing practices in relation to the use of ranks in their special constabularies, and I understand that the decision which the Strathclyde police authority took last October was prompted by a desire to secure a uniform practice throughout the new force.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, whether he does not think that this is a very questionable decision? At this time above all others, does he not think that every encouragement should be given to voluntary service such as is given by the special constables?
§ Lord KIRKHILL
My Lords, I fully agree that every encouragement should be given to every form of voluntary service, but I have to emphasise that this decision is a decision of the Strathclyde authority. Of course, they are fully permitted to take this course of action.
My Lords, without wishing to undermine the authority of chief constables, which is very important, may I ask the noble Lord to confirm that he considers the national interest to come before any local interest of this sort, however conventient it may have been in the short term?
§ Lord KIRKHILL
My Lords, the national interest must always be paramount, but in the Scottish context the practice varies as between forces. It is fair to say that the major element of recruitment to the special constabulary emanates initially from the police force itself—the friend of a constable for example. One of (the major difficulties unquestionably is when a regular constable is on duty, let us say with an inspector of the special constabulary if an incident occurs the citizen tends to go to the man with the pips on his shoulder. which of course leads to some difficulty.