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Policewomen

Volume 393: debated on Thursday 4 November 1943

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36 and 37.

asked the Home Secretary (1) the names of those local authorities who have employed women police and found them unsatisfactory;

(2) the proportion of local authorities throughout the country employing women police?

Out of a total of 158 police forces in England and Wales, policewomen are at present employed in 47. There are in addition a few forces in which the appointment of policewomen has been approved, but appointments have not yet been made. I am informed that in forces where they have been longest employed their services have been found to be of definite value, and I am not aware of any force where the employment of policewomen has been discontinued because it has been found unsatisfactory.

As the right hon. Gentleman's reply shows how very few policewomen there are, and also that they have never once been given up where they have been introduced, does he not think the time has come to make it compulsory upon all local authorities to have women police? Is it not true that unless the Government had made it compulsory to have men police some local authorities would not have had them?

My Noble Friend is right to this extent, that I have said that I am not aware of the employment of policewomen being discontinued owing to their being unsatisfactory, but, on the other hand, conditions in police areas do vary, and I think it would be going rather far to compel every one of the police authorities to employ policewomen; but, as the Noble Lady knows, it is the policy of the Home Office to encourage their employment.

Why is the right hon. Gentleman so reluctant not to press the larger units to introduce policewomen?

I have in certain cases raised the matter with the larger units, but, short of legislative authority, I do not think it would be right for the Home Secretary to interfere with the discretion of the police authorities.

Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the position in some of the larger units and see whether the time has not really come, in the interests of the safety of young people, to make it compulsory to have women police?

Certainly, and we often do that. As a matter of fact in the Metropolitan area at the present time I could employ, and the Commissioner is willing to employ, more policewomen, but the trouble is to find suitable women.

Is it not the case that the strong wish of local authorities to have more policewomen is often frustrated by the personal prejudices of chief constables?