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Orders Of The Day

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 1 November 1945

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Police Bill

Order For Second Reading Read

4.48 p.m.

I beg to move,

"That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The civilian police force of this country is an object of universal admiration. That 60,000 unarmed men should be able to maintain law and order in a great freedom-loving country is the highest possible tribute to their tact, integrity, efficiency and commonsense. Their rule is accepted because they are recognised as citizens discharging a highly specialised duty of civilian citizenship. Their activities extend over a wide area, and undoubtedly some of the more recent phases of their activities have given them an even higher standing with the ordinary citizen than they ever had before. I think of the policemen who are appointed to see that children get across main roads safely on their way to and from school. It gives the young citizen, at a very early stage in his life, the knowledge that these guardians of the law are friends of every law-abiding citizen, who are anxious to do all they can to help him.

I imagine that many Members like myself, who sit on the bench at petty and quarter sessions, are sometimes almost embarrassed by the way in which, at the end of a case, just before the penalty is announced, a police officer in court says a few quite unexpected words in favour of the person who is about to be punished. That gives another indication of the way in which they endeavour to see that the laws of this country are administered so that the punishment shall fit, not so much the crime, as the criminal. In this and many other ways they form a force which is recognised as an institution of which this country can well be proud. The curious thing is that this feeling is evinced by the community towards all the police forces, the Metropolitan police force, for which I am directly responsible to this House, and which, through the Commissioner of Police, I administer, the borough forces and the county forces. I am quite sure that visitors from other countries are always impressed by the way in which the Metropolitan Police, although not a local government force, are regarded with confidence, esteem and affection by the citizens of greater London. Elsewhere, the force is local and we intend that it shall remain so. We have to secure that the locally governed force shall be so ordered as to be able to discharge, in the circumstances of our times, the duty of preventing crime, or detecting it when it is committed, of protecting the life, limbs and property of the citizen generally, and, by a display of sweet reasonableness, maintaining the harmonious and peaceful communal life of our cities, towns and villages. By this Bill the Secretary of State gets only one new power, and he can only exercise it subject to public inquiry and the ultimate specific control of Parliament.

It may be as well, in introducing this Bill, to give a short history of the police service and its development, because this Measure is part of the general evolutionary process which has been observed with regard to the creation and development of these forces. In 1829, Sir Robert Peel—who gave his Christian name and surname for so many years to the humbler members of these Forces—introduced the Metropolitan Police Act. That Measure was greeted by a broadsheet in which he was accused of preparing a plot to replace English liberty by a military autarchy—it might almost have been a General Election broadsheet—and of intending to overthrow King George IV and instal in his place the Duke of Wellington. Since that Act was passed in that year there has been a continuous history of the Metropolitan police. In 1835, the Municipal Corporations Act required all boroughs, except the unreformed borough of the City of London, to establish a paid and permanent police force, and it was not until four years later that the City of London promoted their own police Act. In the same year, the counties of England and Wales were empowered, but not required, to establish paid and permanent police forces. In 1840, an Order in Council fixed the present boundaries of the Metropolitan Police District. I think it is interesting to some who think that Orders in Council are the invention of modern governments to realise that so long ago as 1840 an Order was promoted which has remained unaltered to this day.

In 1856 counties were required to establish a police force, and in 1882 the Municipal Corporations Act of that year provided that no new police force should be established for a borough of less than 20,000 people at the date of its incorporation. In 1888 the Local Government Act provided that boroughs of less than 10,000 population should have their police forces merged into the county, and in the next 50 years, between 1888 and 1932, although 57 new boroughs were incorporated, only seven new police forces were created. Six of these were in the county boroughs of Barnsley, Dudley, Merthyr Tydfil, Southend-on-Sea, Stoke-on-Trent and Wallasey. Only one non-county borough police force has been established since 1882, and that was in the borough of Hyde, in 1899. Before that date, it had been policed by the county but apparently no legal consolidation agreement had been made Although the Home Secretary of the day disapproved of Hyde becoming a separate police authority he was powerless to take any steps in the matter. I think it may be well to summarise the position today with regard to the non-county boroughs of the country. There are 309, and of these 34 are in the Metropolitan police district. Of the 309, 228 are policed by the county police force. Only 47 have a police force of their own, including 14 boroughs who are in the various wartime amalgamations that were made under the Defence Regulations by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council. I want to read to the House, if I may, the Regulation under which those amalgamations took place, because one of the reasons for this Bill being brought in is the situation that is created by the exact wording of that Regulation:
"The Secretary of State may by Order provide for the amalgamation of the police forces for two or more areas to which these regulations apply, if he is satisfied that the amalgamation is necessary for facilitating naval, military or air force operations."
These Regulations were very valuable indeed in unifying the police forces of the Southern counties at a time when it was feared that there might be an invasion of the Southern part of the country by the enemy, and were probably even more useful in those months just before the invasion of the Continent. It is interesting to know that General Eisenhower has paid a very high tribute to the way in which the police forces of that part of the country acted with him and his Command in arranging for the training and embarkation of the great Army which sailed from our shores. Everyone, I think, will admit that to continue any amalgamations under that Regulation at the present time would be an act deprived of any moral sanction. No one will contend that it is now even an excuse to say that we desire to have these forces amalgamated for facilitating naval, military or air force operations.

Perhaps I might assist the right hon. Gentleman by reminding him of the Lord President's undertaking that immediately after the end of the war the matter would be reconsidered.

I am very thankful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for supplying me with my notes, but he might really assume that I was going to deal with so elementary a point as that. It will probably save time if I am allowed to make my speech in my own order. I will endeavour to make a full statement and to deal with all the points. It is because of the present situation and the pledge of my right hon. Friend that we are submitting to the House today the proposals for the future organisation of the police service.

The existing law with regard to the reorganisation of the police forces operates along very narrow lines. The County Police Act, 1840, and the County and Borough Police Act, 1856, permit only one form of merger, and that is for a borough force, whether county borough or non-county borough, to be merged in a county force. In any case where it may be desired for reasons of efficient police work to bring together two police forces, that is the only way in which it can be done. We cannot amalgamate two county forces or two county borough forces. The only thing that can happen is that arrangements must be made for the borough force to be merged in that of the county within which the borough is geographically situated. There have been one or two efforts outside the war-time amalgamations to deal with this problem. For instance, the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland have appointed the same Chief Constable, but he deals separately with the Standing Joint Committee for Cumberland and the Standing Joint Committee for Westmorland. It does not always follow that these two counties see exactly eye to eye on matters of police development. There is a curious arrangement in Lincolnshire. The geographical county contains the three administrative counties known as the Parts of Holland, Kesteven and Lindsey. There is a joint committee which has very limited powers and one Chief Constable for the whole county, but most of the matters relating to the day to day administration of the police go back for consideration to the three separate Standing Joint Committees.

The present position is that in this country we have 181 police forces, if we regard Lincolnshire as having three, or 179 if we regard it as having one. There is the Metropolitan Police, which has an establishment of 20,000, and the City of London police. There are 58 county forces whose establishments range from 2,500 constables and officers to ten, and 119 borough forces whose establishments range from 2,000 to 15. Of the 119 borough forces, 72 are county boroughs; that is to say, of the 83county boroughs of England and Wales, 72 are police authorities. Eight county boroughs are merged in the counties—Bournemouth, Burton-on-Trent, Bury, Darlington, Gloucester, Smethwick, West Bromwich and West Hartlepool; and three—Croydon, East Ham and West Ham—are in the Metropolitan Police district. I cannot find from the records that at any time the eight county boroughs I have enumerated have been separate police authorities.

This matter has been considered from time to time by various commissions and committees. The Desborough Committee, in their Second Report in 1920, made a recommendation upon which this Bill is founded. They said in paragraph 105:
"As to the line of demarcation between the borough forces which should be absorbed and those which should be retained, a number of suggestions have been put before us. We should have been inclined to fix a limit for a separate police force to boroughs with about 100,000 population and upwards. But on the whole, for reasons of administrative convenience, we recommend that in England and Wales all existing separate forces in non-county boroughs should be merged in the county forces on terms to be approved by the Secretary of State, that no new force should be established in any non-county borough, and that the consent of the Secretary of State should be required for the establishment of any new force in a county borough, which consent should not be given unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that for some exceptional reasons the establishment of a separate force would afford some definite administrative advantage."
That report was made by a committee which spent much time in investigating the police service, and they brought forward a series of recommendations which considerably increased the efficiency of the police forces of the country and did a great deal towards producing ultimately a contented and well-disciplined force. In 1932, there was a Select Committee of this House on police force amalgamation. They said in paragraph 43of their report:
"The trend of recent legislation has been to prescribe county and county borough councils as a class, and without reference to either population or area, as the authorities for the administration of the more important local services. Police administration differs in many respects from the other services administered by local authorities, but your committee do not consider that this is a sufficient reason for singling it out for special treatment."
The Departmental Committee on Detective Work and Procedure laid special emphasis on the advantages of amalgamating small forces to secure the more effective detection of crime.

The police forces exist for the prevention of crime and, where it cannot be prevented, for its detection. The resources of the modern criminal are very great. When the Metropolitan Police Force was formed, the telegraph was a new invention. I believe that one of the first real advertisements that the telegraph service got was a telegram which was sent by some people in Eton to the police in London enabling a murderer who had taken train from Windsor to be detained when he reached Paddington. The telephone, the motor car and the aeroplane were unknown, and science in the intervening period has added all these resources to the equipment of the criminally-minded sections of the population. From such reading as I have made on high life in the United States, I gather that it is the ambition of the criminal there always to be one jump ahead of the sheriff. We desire that in this country the police shall always be one or two jumps ahead of the criminal.

The increased facilities available to the criminal have made it necessary to have in all the efficient police forces a number of officers who undertake duties of a highly specialised character. There are officers who have to deal with fingerprints and others who deal with photography. Great numbers of specialists are employed in the various phases of police work which have been brought into existence by the motor car. It is impossible for a small force to provide a sufficient number of men who can be equipped to deal with the highly specialised parts of police duties. It is also true that in the small forces opportunities for promotion are few and rather apt to be long delayed, and an efficient officer may have to wait a long time before he can get the chance that will come to a man of equal ability in one of the larger forces. The small forces, at a time when we are short of manpower and when reasonable economy is desirable, are wasteful in overheads and in the use of manpower.

Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that the House should be asked to consider a Measure which will enable us to deal with these modern problems, not in the light of the events of 1829, 1840 and 1856, but in the light of the actual conditions of the day. I am aware that some hon. Members have received from the town clerks of the districts they represent letters which indicate that this Bill has been introduced without the usual courtesies being paid to the associations which represent local authorities. One of my colleagues in the Government has handed me a letter which was written to him by the town clerk of the county borough which he represents:
"I think you should be aware that the Bill has been introduced without any prior consultation with the Association of the Municipal Corporations, or, so far as I know, any local authority interests at all. It is obvious that the time chosen, namely, when the first municipal elections since before the war are being held, makes it quite impossible for local authorities to give it their attention."
[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I agree that that would be very terrible if it were true. It is well known that I have been for many years interested in local government and have attended probably as many deputations to Government Departments as any other Member. I have also from time to time, in my previous office and this, had to receive deputations. It would, therefore, appear somewhat strange if this attitude had been adopted by me. These negotiations were commenced under the Home Secretary ship of my right hon. Friend the present Lord President of the Council. They were continued—it is true, I am told, only at the official level—during the short period of the "Caretaker" government, but on 1st October I received, as Home Secretary, with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary, a deputation of representatives of the two great associations which represent the police authorities. An old Member of this House held in very high respect, Sir Joseph Lamb, was one of those who represented the County Councils' Association. Sir Philip Henriques, Chairman of the County Councils' Association was there; Mr. H. S. Martin, Clerk to the Sussex Joint Police Authority was there; and Sir Sidney Johnson, Secretary of the County Councils' Association. Representing the Association of Municipal Corporations were Mr. Rafferty, from Leeds, Sir G. Tyrwhitt-Drake, connected with the Police Authority for Maidstone, who very kindly complimented me on the clear and lucid statement which I made to the deputation. Although he said that it was quite unpalatable to him, he at least understood it.

He always approves of good work, whether he agrees with it or not.

Alderman Wilson, of Sunderland, and Mr. G. H. Banwell, Secretary of the Association, were also there. I met them on 1st October, 17 days before the Bill was introduced—exactly a month ago from today. I explained to them exactly the proposals that we intended to insert into the Bill. I am now, and always have been, perfectly willing to consult with them, or with any other interested local authority which may desire to put its views in front of me. Between now and the Committee Stage of the Bill, I am perfectly willing to consider any representations that are made; but I do resent letters being sent to Members of the House by town clerks, insinuating that this matter has been introduced to the House, without taking consultation with the local authorities who will have to administer the Measure after it is passed.

Has the right hon. Gentleman had consultation with the municipal authorities since the Bill was printed?

I have not had any consultation, but I have been available for consultation, if it was desired. I made that perfectly plain at the interview. I see right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite who, undoubtedly, have been through this process with local authority associations, and they will know that I had to say to these gentlemen, "I am disclosing to you what the decision of the Government is, and I must ask you to treat this as confidential until the Bill is presented to Parliament; but at any time, I shall be pleased to hear what you have to say about it." I have not had any holiday this year—I have been in London every day—and I should have been quite delighted to meet any of them who desired to express any views on the matter.

We are as anxious as the Minister is to clear up this apparent misunderstanding. We understand that practically no conversations have taken place since the Bill was published; and we have just been told by the right hon Gentleman that, when those conversations took place on 1st October, it was insisted that the conversations should be confidential—that is, that the statutory authorities represented by the deputation were not to be told what had transpired between the Minister and the deputation. Am I correct in putting that construction on the latter part?

Certainly. Since the Bill has been published, there has been a fortnight, which is quite the usual time between a First and Second Reading of a Bill. During the whole of that time, if there was any desire to make any representations to me, I should have been perfectly willing to receive anyone who wanted to come.

Is it not a fact that there are municipal elections taking place today, and all the members of these local authorities have been busy working for these elections, the same as we were before the General Election? After today, there will be new groups of people and fresh representation in many places, and would it not be more desirable to give these new people the opportunity of consulting with the right hon. Gentleman before he makes his final decisions?

I have been pressed by local authorities already amalgamated in the wartime years to make a statement with regard to their future. I desire to do that. I am willing to believe that there will be many changes, in many places, as regards to today's elections; but this is purely an administrative matter we are discussing, and, as far as I know, it raises no differences of party feeling at all. I should have thought that this was one of those matters that could have been carried on through this period on an administrative basis. Are we to understand that the month of October is to be a "closed" time for negotiations with municipal corporations; during the month of February, with county councils; and during April, with urban and rural district councils? If so, we are making the relationship between local authorities and Government Departments very difficult indeed.

This is purely a piece of administrative legislation, yet the right hon. Gentleman is going to ask this House to abolish certain police forces in this country. I should imagine that is far more than an administrative instrument which he is asking the House to give him.

I regard it, quite frankly, as administrative. I know of no party differences on the issue as to whether non-county borough police forces should be continued or not. This is a matter, so far as I know, on which people on both sides of the House hold conflicting opinions—as I found they did last year with regard to the future existence of Part III Education Authorities. I am very anxious to meet all these people who feel that they have any grievance under this Bill as it is drafted. I am perfectly willing, between now and further stages of the Bill, to meet either deputations from the associations, or deputations from individual boroughs and counties, who may desire to put their views in front of me.

I will endeavour briefly to run through the Clauses of the Bill, and indicate the way in which they will affect the various authorities and persons concerned. Clause 1 carries out a recommendation of the Desborough Committee, which I read out. It assigns police powers as definitely a function to be exercised by counties and county boroughs. All the 47 non-county boroughs now having police forces will, if this Clause becomes law, be merged in their respective counties.

Clause 2 is one which, I hope, will be used very freely by the counties and county boroughs. I have every desire that any amalgamation of the police authorities shall be carried out on the basis of local desires and needs; and therefore, I hope that during the further long period between now and the appointed day, the counties and county boroughs concerned will get together to see if it is possible, by forming combined police authorities, to improve efficiency of police work in their areas; to utilise manpower better; to get their men trained better; and to provide more reasonable avenues of promotion for the men in the Forces. I shall do everything I can to assist any authorities who wish to come into these voluntary schemes to frame schemes that will be thoroughly efficient.

Clause 3 however, is a triumph of experience over hope. I have been in local government too long not to realise that it is only on very rare occasions that these voluntary agreements are reached. I hope that on this occasion there will be a greater sense of co-operation than sometimes has been displayed. Therefore, Clause 3 gives the Secretary of State power, where he thinks that it is expedient in the interests of efficiency that an amalgamation scheme should be made for any of these police areas, and no scheme satisfactory to him is submitted by the local authorities, to make, by Order, a scheme. If the scheme produced by the Secretary of State is accepted by the constituent police authorities, firstly I shall believe that the age of miracles has returned and, secondly, I shall be very pleased to accept their commendation of it. If either of them object, it is then my duty to appoint an inspector, who may not be an officer of the police or a servant of any Government Department, to hold an inquiry into the scheme, and to make a report to me. If, after receiving his report, I approve the scheme, whether as originally drafted or as amended, I shall have to lay the scheme before this House and another place, and either House, within 40 days, can annul the scheme by negative resolution. That is really the only new power the Secretary of State gets in this Bill.

Is there any limit to the number of county boroughs which may be amalgamated with adjoining counties?

No, there is no limit suggested in the Bill, and the number of county boroughs varies from county to county. I will say, quite frankly, that I think one can get a police authority that is too big, just as one can get a police authority that is too small. In this matter, one would expect the House to exercise due vigilance to see that a police force that is too unwieldy is not created. I do not intend to create regional police forces elsewhere of the type we have in London. I do not propose to interfere with the organisation of the Metropolitan Police Force but I would regard a force of the size of the Metropolitan Police Force elsewhere in the country as being something that the circumstances of this country did not warrant.

Must these amalgamations be within the county, or may they, where there is a non-county borough adjacent—say five miles—to a county borough in a neighbouring county take place between those boroughs?

No, the non-county borough force goes to its own county. That is a principle which I recollect arguing at this box for a long time on numerous occasions last year. I do not think that one can break up the constitution of a county. The Boundary Commissioners are sitting and it may be that they will adjust some of these county boundaries where a local government unit that appears, from the modern point of view, to be no longer part of the county of which it now forms a part, can be put in the appropriate county. There is no power in this Bill to break up the framework of existing counties.

Is there any intention of transferring county borough powers to the county?

:No. I am coming to that point, if my hon. Friend will allow me. The Order will relate to county and county borough police forces, it may be the amalgamation of two or more counties, or two or more county boroughs, or a mixture of two or more. For instance, the county borough and county of Bournemouth and Hampshire are already subject to a consolidation scheme which, I understand, works very well indeed.

:I spoke not as the highest military authority but as a member of the Hampshire Joint Police Force Authority.

I was asked to believe the other night that a seaside resort must have its own police force because no one but the local policeman understood the local visitor.

:A person who like my hon. Friend goes from Ipswich to Great Yarmouth. When one thinks of Worthing, Bognor Regis, Bournemouth and other places it is quite clear that these things can be arranged where an efficient police force is in existence. Any county borough brought into a scheme with the county standing joint committee will not be absorbed by the county. A combined police authority will be set up on which both the county and the county borough concerned will have appropriate representation, which will be settled in the scheme. I will not say on what basis it will be because it may, quite possibly, vary from case to case.

:No, if the county is smaller than the county borough with which it is taken over for joint police purposes the county may have less representation than the county borough. The new combined police authority will be a body on which all the constituent counties and county boroughs will be represented in proportions agreed in the scheme, and they will have the right of electing their members to the combined police authority in accordance with the scheme.

Will there be some similar arrangement for large non-county boroughs?

No. Clause 1 says that the non-county borough as a police area goes. The non-county borough gets its representation on the standing joint committee just as any other county district does. One of my difficulties in trying to make any arrangements of that kind can be illustrated by this example. There is, in Glamorgan, the Borough of Neath which we are merging with the county under the scheme. I cannot see why Neath should have particular representation on the new police authority, when Rhondda, a much more populous place, has no such right, merely on account of the accident that on the appointed day Neath happened to have a police force.

:Will the administrative centre of an amalgamated police authority necessarily be the same as that of the county council?

:No, the County of Gloucester and the County Borough of Gloucester now constitute an amalgamated police authority. The county town and Shire Hall of Gloucestershire are at Gloucester but the police headquarters for the county and county borough are Cheltenham. That may be part of the idea that there must be a special force to deal with visitors.

I have endeavoured to give an explanation of Clause 4 which, I hope, makes it quite clear that each county and county borough that comes in is a constituent member of the police authority, and that the representation is in the proportion described in the scheme.

Clause 5 gives us power to amend or revoke amalgamation schemes. With regard to new county boroughs, that is, an area which is now a non-county borough, or possibly an urban district, which becomes a county borough in the future, it will have all the powers and duties of a police authority on the day it becomes a county borough, and if it is not decided to make it a separate police authority, a scheme will have to be brought in on the day of its creation to make it a member of some combined police authority. Although now it has no right to sit on the police authority, in the event of the district becoming a county borough there would then go to the new county borough, as of right, certain seats on the police authority.

Clause 6 contains the provisions usual in Measures of this kind for dealing with interim arrangements while transfer is proceeding. Clause 7 deals in the usual way with the compensation of officers who are prejudicially affected. Clause 8 deals with the position of Chief Constables. It is enacted in the Bill that the first Chief Constable of the combined force shall be a member of a police force, and shall be the Chief Constable of one of the constituent forces, unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that no such Chief Constable is suitable for the appointment. That will, at least, ensure that in nearly every case one of the Chief Constables in the forces to be grouped will become the Chief Constable of the new police force. Chief Constables of non-county borough forces cannot be transferred to the county force or to the combined force unless they agree to join the force in some other capacity. If they decline to come in they may be given up to 10 years added service to reckon towards their pension, and there is a special concession, which I hope the House will note, that if such a man retires and dies between the date of his retirement and his 66th birthday, his widow becomes entitled to the full pension which she would have enjoyed had he died while in the service, so that not only is the interest of the Chief Constable himself preserved, but the interest of his widow is also looked after. If he dies after he is 66 years of age she will get the appropriate pension, which is a diminishing pensionin the case of police widows, in accordance with the scale which would have operated had the man remained in the force until his 65th birthday.

There is a feeling among some of my hon. Friends that it is necessary to meet the position of the man who enlisted in a non-county borough police force and who does not desire to move out of the non-county borough. Anyone who has served on a police authority knows the kind of situation that arises—that of a policeman not living in a police house, who has his own house and has one or two young children attending the secondary school. If he is moved from the town where he is stationed to another part of the area, he or his children may suffer very considerable disadvantages as a result of the change. It is not possible in the Statute to safeguard the position of that man, but when the Bill becomes law I propose to issue a statement to chief constables and police authorities, intimating that it would be the desire of the Home Office, as I am sure it would be the desire of this House, that a man who enlisted in a borough police force shall not be moved out of that borough without his own consent. In that way I hope we shall secure him that security of tenure and the continuation of the education of his children, and any other similar matters which may affect him, in a way which would be acceptable to the House.

The police authority that ignores the express wishes of the Secretary of State is not, I think, likely to repeat the experiment. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys), who has said he was a member of a joint police authority, will, I think, agree with me that intimations of that sort from the Secretary of State are regarded with very considerable respect by the police authorities throughout the country. While in theory it could be done, I would not care to be the chairman or member of an authority that tried it.

Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate what sort of sanctions he has in mind?

I think it will suffice to say in regard to this matter that the relationships between the Secretary of State and police authorities are such that intimations of this kind are accepted and honoured. I cannot imagine that anyone in the course of this Debate, whatever else they may say about this Measure, will protest against this particular proposal, and I am quite sure it will be accepted by every police authority in the country.

I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think any objection could be taken on the ground to which he has referred, but I think objection might be taken to the way the right hon. Gentleman put it before the authority.

I was asked a definite question as to what would happen if somebody ignored the suggestion which is going to be made to them. I made it quite clear at the time that I did not think it would happen. I do not think there was any harm in what I said.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that what he said, in effect, was that they would not do it twice, which seemed to imply some power behind him to ensure that it would not happen again?

I should have thought that the expression of displeasure by a Secretary of State, backed by the opinion of this House, would have been quite a sufficient deterrent to a repetition of the offence. I meant nothing more than that. After all, I have been a member of a standing joint committee for 17 years, and I know how respectable they are.

Clauses 9 and 10, which deal with some of the outstanding difficulties arising from the former Acts and Regulations, I think, do not call for explanation on Second Reading, though they may very well provoke some discussion in Committee. Clause 11 is a very valuable Clause. At the moment a borough police force is in this extraordinary position. It cannot exercise compulsory powers for the purchase of land for a police station unless the police station is regarded as an annexe to the justices' room. Therefore, when it is desired to obtain a piece of land compulsorily in a borough for a police station the form has to be followed of proceeding to build a justices' room and then adding to the small justices' room the police barracks and so on that is felt to be necessary. In Clause 11 we make it clear that the council of any county or county borough, being a separate police area may be authorised by means of an order of the council to obtain land by compulsion on the same terms as the council can for its other administrative purposes.

I now come to Clause 12. I hope I shall not be accused this time of using language other than carefully when I say that this is an administrative Clause which deals with the rectification of the Metropolitan Police District boundary. That was first laid down in 1829. It was amended in 1840 and has remained the same ever since. During the intervening 105 years any amount of parish and district boundaries have been altered in that area, with the result that in many places in the environs of London the Metropolitan Police District includes part, but not the whole, of particular county districts. We have framed the Schedule to which Clause 12 refers on the basis that if the greater part of the rateable value of a county district is inside the Metropolitan Police District, the whole of the county district comes in. If the greater part of the rateable value is outside the Metropolitan Police District, the whole of the county district goes out.

I will be frank with the House as to why I chose rateable value. It is the only criterion that I have absolutely up to date, but in all cases the division is so unequal that if I took any other basis that is usual, such as population, I am quite sure that the same result would have been achieved. It works like this. In the county of Surrey the greater part of the rateable value of the urban district of Esher is inside the Metropolitan Police District, and therefore the whole of the urban district goes in. The greater part of the rateable value of the urban district of Caterham and Warlingham is outside the Metropolitan Police District. Therefore, the whole goes out. In Hertfordshire a very tiny part of the rateable value of the municipal borough of Watford is inside. Therefore, because the majority of the rateable value is outside, the whole goes out. In that way a good deal of much needed tidiness can be given to police accounts of the counties adjoining London.

The only point to which I need allude on Clause 13 is the appointed day. It will be seen that I have fixed the appointed day in the Bill for 1st April, 1947. I am well aware to which saint that day is dedicated, but it is the usual day in Acts of Parliament. I have chosen 1st April, 1947, and not 1st April, 1946, so that it shall be possible during the intervening period, which will give us some 15 or 16 months, to carry out these negotiations for the voluntary amalgamation schemes and for any compulsory schemes that may be necessary, with sufficient time to enable the decisions to be reached without undue hurry.

Does the right hon. Gentleman envisage any difficulties with the Boundary Commission?

No, I do not think so, because, as I explained on an earlier Clause in the Bill, provision is made whereby police authorities will follow any decision which the Boundary Commissioners make. I should be hopeful that by 1st April, 1947, at any rate, we might have some indication at least of the way in which their minds would be moving in certain of the cases.

This Bill deals with one of the most important phases of our local government life in the country. It is a Measure that is designed to afford the police the greatest possible opportunity for exercising their duties with an efficiency which is sometimes denied them at the moment because of the way in which the boundaries of police districts have been drawn. There are some very small county and county borough forces which, quite clearly, can never adequately discharge their duties. In dealing with schemes, whether for voluntary or compulsory amalgamation, we must have regard to the spread of the population over the countryside. In some districts it is possible to deal with fairly small areas; in others they will have to be wider if we are going to get forces of the kind that can command the respect of the community in dealing with the prevention of crime in these days.

I want to make it quite clear that, except in the one particular that I have mentioned, this is not a Bill that increases the power of the Secretary of State. The only thing that he can do is to submit to this House for its consideration a draft of a scheme for a combined police area. As far as I am concerned, I assure the House that I desire to work in the very closest co-operation with all the police authorities of the country. What I desire to afford to them and the magnificent men who serve under them is an opportunity for making this service even more worthy of our respect, esteem and affection than it has been hitherto.

4.55 p.m.

:First of all, I would like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his long and lucid explanation of this Bill and for telling us some of his intentions. At the outset of my remarks I would certainty like to echo the opening tributes which he paid to the police forces of this country, both large and small. I am sure they were well deserved, and I am glad he took the oppor- tunity of paying that tribute in this House. Whatever the attitude of the Government Front Bench or of this Bench to this Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, it does cut across party allegiance to some extent, because on all sides of the House there must be Members who represent seats where strong feelings of local patriotism and civic pride are concerned and which cannot and ought not to be ignored.

Subject to that, I propose to state very broadly the attitude of the Opposition to this Bill. We are not opposed to some measure of amalgamation in the interests of efficiency. We welcome the statement that the right hon. Gentleman intends that police forces shall remain local. What we are concerned about is that the Bill shall not leave this House in a form so that a future Home Secretary may go very much further than the right hon. Gentleman intends to go, and, frankly, our attitude on the Second Reading of this Bill will be dependent on whether or not the right hon. Gentleman can give certain specific assurances for which I shall ask him. There will also be some Committee points which I desire to raise and of which I shall give an indication. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, certain amalgamations were carried out by his predecessor, now Lord President of the Council, under Defence Regulations for reasons which he has given, and which were, roughly, to help our American Allies when they were with us in order that they might not have to consult a multiplicity of police authorities, and also to help in the detection of espionage during a time when we might still be invaded, and at a later time when we were building up for offensive operations against the enemy. But those reasons have now passed and, as the right hon. Gentleman says, there is no excuse for the regulation being kept in force for those reasons.

With regard to the future, his predecessor wisely did not prejudice it during a Debate which took place on a Prayer to annul some of these Regulations. I would like to quote what he said on that occasion. He was asked by the then hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir Alfred Beit):
"The right hon. Gentleman will not want to re-establish these small forces after the war when the advantages of the mergers have been seen.
MR. MORRISON:The answer to that is that this is being done by Defence Regulation it automatically comes to an end at the end of the war; but it is perfectly competent for the Government and Parliament at the time, if they wish, to pass legislation continuing these measures and to provide for others. But I do not think I ought to prejudice that issue one way or the other."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th October, 1942; Vol. 383, c. 1734.]
I think that was very wise of him, and we make no complaint now that the Government come here with proposals. They were not prejudiced at that time, and they have every right to come forward with those proposals.

We are not opposed to some measure of amalgamation. I do not want to decry in any way the local tradition, patriotism and civil pride of the small force, but obviously there are cases, and we admit it, where, in the interests of the rapid detection of crime, and in the interests of training, economy and other matters, amalgamation is desirable. I know that the Select Committee of 1932, which was presided over by a right hon. Gentleman who is still a Member of this House, reported in that sense. I would like you to know, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that after due consideration they laid so much stress on the rights and experience of county boroughs that they made a Recommendation which I propose now to read to the House. It is paragraph 44 of the Report in which the Select Committee says:
"Your Committee therefore recommends that no county borough should be deprived of its right to maintain a separate police force. They consider, however, that the conclusion of voluntary agreements between counties and county boroughs for the amalgamation of their police forces is desirable, and should be encouraged."
They came out absolutely flat against compulsion because of the regard they had for the experience and the rights of the county boroughs. I merely quote that as the definite conclusion of the Select Committee, which sat not so very long ago. They also recommended, for the same reason, against any compulsory amalgamation of the county forces. They did recommend that, in the case of non-county boroughs with populations of less than 30,000, amalgamations should take place with the county forces, if necessary with compulsion. Those were the Recommendations of the Select Committee.

The Bill goes very much further than the recommendations to which I have referred. At one fell swoop it merges all the non-county boroughs. From the figures that I got, and for which I asked by written Question a day or two ago—may I say that I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for providing them in time for this Debate, although I put down an un starred Question—a majority of the non-county boroughs to be amalgamated have populations in excess of the figure which was recommended by the Select Committee. Further—and the Home Secretary referred to this as only a little power, the one new power that it gives to the Home Secretary—the Bill as it is at present drafted will give the right hon. Gentleman power to proceed with amalgamations without any limit whatsoever. We cannot describe that as just a little power. It is a very large power. That power is subject only to a local inquiry whose findings are not mandatory, so far as I can find out in the Bill, and to a negative Resolution. They are not real safeguards against a Home Secretary with a majority he is ready to use as a steamroller proceeding to nationalise or regionalise the police under the central Government. I am not suggesting that that is the intention of the present right hon. Gentleman. I know that it is not.

We might get another Joynson-Hicks, and there would be danger, if we gave him a Bill of this sort. I am not suggesting that Joynson-Hicks could have done it, but his name was in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman and that rather reinforces the point I am making. I should like to refer now to the Debate which took place when the Defence Regulations were being considered. This was said in the course of the Debate:

"I am not proposing the policy of a national police force. I am—at any rate as yet—not convinced it would be right. Administratively, I could do with the police what the House has permitted me to do with the Fire Service, and make a first-class administrative job of it. But, frankly, I am not convinced it would be right. I think there are strong objections to a single national police force in the hands of the Home Office, objections from the point of view of civil liberty and otherwise, and I certainly do not propose to do anything of the kind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th October, 1942; Vol. 383, c. 1729.]
That was spoken by the present Lord President of the Council. They are wise words, and on this side of the House we are unalterably opposed to a regional or national police force, which is the instrument of dictatorship. I am quite aware that the right hon. Gentleman has given us an assurance that the present Government have no such designs on our police force, and that, of course, we accept.

I think, however, we must go further and ask that, on the Committee stage, the right hon. Gentleman will either introduce, or will accept, some Amendment which will limit the scope of the amalgamation which can be brought about under the Bill. We ask definitely for that undertaking. Otherwise, we must oppose the Second Reading of a Bill which will give the Home Secretary such wide powers of compulsory amalgamation. That is where we stand on the main issue. Knowing the intentions of the righthon. Gentleman, which he has stated to us, and which really coincide with our own. I think he can have no difficulty in giving us that undertaking. It will not affect the working of the Bill and it will remove a danger which we should not allow to be placed on the Statute Book.

I want to turn to some other and minor points. Clause 3 (2) refers to the local inquiry which is to take place. There does not appear to be any provision for the evidence given before the inquiry to be made available to this House. There should be some provision in that sense. With regard to Clause 3 (3), we think that the Resolution should be affirmative, and not merely negative. We all know that that means a Prayer coming on at a very late hour in the evening. Having regard to the issues involved in the Bill we consider that there should be an Affirmative Resolution. The Government would have to bring it up at a time convenient to the House and not late in the evening, which is the time for a Prayer to come on.

Another small point concerns a further recommendation, in the report of the Select Committee to which I have already referred. It will be remembered that the Select Committee recommended that non-county boroughs with a population smaller than 30,000 should be amalgamated compulsorily, but they made one exception to that. I should like to quote their words to the House:
"From the evidence before your Committee it is clear that, in the case of the Royal Borough of Windsor, very special conditions obtain by reason of the fact that it contains a Royal residence. Those conditions impose special duties upon the borough police, and the members of the force require, therefore, to have special qualifications. In those circumstances your Committee recommend that although the population of Windsor is below 30,000 it should be permitted to retain its separate police force."
I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give some consideration to that point.

I read that paragraph, and I am inquiring into it. I am bound to say that I think the Select Committee were misinformed. The Castle at Windsor is policed by the Metropolitan Police Force and the great park is policed by the Berkshire Constabulary. As far as I can ascertain, the activities of the borough police force at Windsor are confined to other parts of the borough than those which I have just mentioned.

I do not press the point now, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at it again. I was glad when the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of the police constable of the borough force who is expecting to spend the rest of his life in the town or city where he has bought a house. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman means to carry out the recommendation of the Select Committee, although his method of explaining it was perhaps a little unfortunate. However, that is by the way. There will be other committee points with which I do not propose to trouble the House at the moment but which I shall raise in due course.

Some of my hon. Friends have an Amendment down that the Bill should be read a Second time "this day six months." If they are fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, they will no doubt deploy their arguments. I must confess that we are a little puzzled that, at a time when there is so much pressing legislation, this Bill should find a place so high up in the queues particularly when there have been protests that not sufficient consultation has taken place with the local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman has dealt with the point, but it was obvious to the House that there has been some misunderstanding. I suggest that, in order to avoid any appearance of steam rollering the local authorities, he should give sufficient time between now and the commencement of the Committee stage for the representations which he invited to take place, and that he should make some arrangement whereby the commencement of the Committee stage is delayed beyond the usual time.

As I have said, by and large, we are not opposed on this side of the House to a measure of amalgamation in the interests of efficiency, but we must be satisfied that we are not being asked to place in the hands of a Home Secretary an instrument whereby a national police force under a central Government could not be brought into being. We are not satisfied that it could not be done under this Bill—I do not mean by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but by somebody else. Given an assurance, and something in the Bill to implement that assurance, on this point, we should not as an Opposition be disposed to oppose the Second Reading, and we would reserve further criticism of detail to a later stage of the Bill. We consider that we and the country are entitled to the most categorical assurances on what is a vital matter in the interests of democracy, and that is that, although the intentions of the present Government and the Home Secretary are no doubt absolutely pure, they will not ask this House to pass a Bill under which a national police force, or amalgamations beyond reasonable limits, can be brought about. We do not wish to part with a Bill which might become the necessary instrument of dictatorship, but if we can have that assurance, backed by something in the Bill, we shall be happy to co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman.

5.16 p.m.

:It is with no simulated diffidence that I ask for your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, in speaking here for the first time. I think it is common ground between the two sides of the House that the police forces of this country must retain their local character, but I think the first question we have to ask ourselves on this Bill is, in what respect is this local character threatened? I myself have lived most of my life in a non-county borough which, for police purposes, has been part of a county area, and I do not believe that the administration in the non-county boroughs that are taken over will differ in any material respect, from the point of view of the individual concerned in dealing with the police, from what has gone before. I believe that in a borough such as that in which I live, if the police are asked about individuals, the same sort of answer would be given as would be given about me, whether it was a non-county borough and part of a county police force or whether it was a county borough, namely, that "his parents were respectable, and his politics were not." It is perfectly true that it is important to keep the local character, but, if the House will pardon a rather platitudinous statement, it is also important to remember that the maintenance of order throughout the country is a question of national importance, and that it is of vital importance to the administration of the police in this country that parochial considerations should not be allowed to dominate the scene.

I myself have some very unhappy recollections from the year 1940, when I was serving in a very junior capacity in the War Office, and part of my duties consisted of dealing with complaints from hon. Members of this House that constituents of theirs had been refused permission to join the Home Guard. In each case the basis of refusal was that reference had been made to the local police and that the reference was not satisfactory. Complaints became so many and so vociferous that a fairly detailed inquiry had to be made, and in some cases—in a relatively few cases—the ground of objection to those individuals had been of a purely frivolous character. We were told in one case that the applicant's wife had been known to attend Communist meetings. Sitting on this side of the House, I suppose I shall be accused of an excessive prejudice in favour of home guards whose wives attended Communist meetings, but the officer who at the time time was working with me in dealing with those cases now sits on the other side of the House and he experienced precisely the same trouble, only rather more of it than I myself. I do not remember in sufficient detail, nor would I tell the House if I did, where those very unsatisfactory cases came from, but my impression is that they came from areas which were very small—just the kind of areas of which the Home Secretary spoke when he said that the forces were too small to allow reasonable conditions from the point of view of promotion for keen men, and where the men at the head were men who in a larger force would not be given the responsibility accorded them under the present system.

In this matter it is quite obvious, and I think it is absolutely common ground between the two sides of the House, that what we need is to keep a wise balance between the two desiderata, local knowledge and a sense of national responsibility. It is perfectly clear however from my own experience and that of a number of other hon. Members that a considerable amount of absolutely genuine misapprehension, and I emphasise the word misapprehension, is entertained about Clause 3 of the Bill. When one reads the words of Clause 3, it seems to me that the opening of the first Subsection puts the emphasis rather on the wrong foot. It gives a picture which I think has misled some local authorities, a picture, though no experienced person would accept it, of a Secretary of State sitting in the Home Office and deciding what he wanted to do with the police force, drawing up schemes if not for his own gratification at any rate in the interests of a doctrinaire conception of efficiency. This perhaps is not a proper point for Second Reading, but I should be grateful, and I believe it would remove a good deal of misapprehension, if my right hon. Friend were able on the Committee Stage to put the emphasis rather differently and say that when an existing organisation is proved inadequate, then he will draw up a scheme. I am not pretending to put it into drafting language at the present time, but I believe that a general assurance in some such terms would remove a good deal of largely unfounded disquiet in the country. The real question is, is the Home Secretary going to assume that the present organisation is efficient until the contrary is proved, or is he going to assume that it is inadequate unless the force now in existence can prove its efficiency? Subject to that, I believe that in the present circumstances, if the Home Secretary is to discharge his duty of the maintenance of public order, he must have powers similar to those granted in Clause 3.

There is one further point that I think should be taken into consideration at the present time in dealing with amalgamation schemes. It is perfectly true, of course, as I think the Home Secretary pointed out, that different administrative considerations apply when dealing with police administration as compared with the rest of local administration, but there is a great deal of relationship between the two and we are in danger at present of living, from the point of view of local government, in a state where we pay our rates to one authority, have our children educated by another, have our police force run by a third, and our electricity supplied by a fourth. Although it is true that on all those authorities the elected representatives of the people do appear, I think it is also true that government by the representatives of the people is not the same as government by the delegates of the representatives of the people. Later on the whole question of local government will have to be gone into, and in five or 10 years' time I hope we shall find ourselves living in a much more coherent and logical order of things in this field. Although it is obvious that in the life of the present Parliament we cannot tackle a problem of this kind, in connection with these amalgamations I think it would be better to go slow rather than fast at present so that when, in another Parliament, we come to reform local government, there will not be too many anomalies to iron out that have been created by amalgamations under this Bill.

Subject to these remarks I believe that it is a just Bill, just in its incidence on the individual; it is a good Bill in its principles, and it is a necessary Bill in the circumstances of the present time. I cannot believe for one moment that it is, in the slightest degree, an appropriate instrument for any Minister who may be minded to cut across the present system and create a national police force, and looking at some of the provisions of Clause 2 dealing with the kind of factors that have to be taken into account in preparing an amalgamation, I must confess that I cannot imagine a more inept instrument in the hands of a "National Police" minded Minister than this. I hope the Home Secretary will not limit the scope of his amalgamations, and I sincerely hope that not for one moment will he consider postponing the Second Reading of this important, right and necessary Bill for a period of six months.

5.28 p.m.

:My first duty, and a very pleasant one, is to congratulate the hon. Member for Walsall (Major Wells) on his thoughtful and, if I may say so, understanding maiden speech on the subject of police organisation. I hope very much that the House will often have the advantage of hearing him in future Debates. Under the Defence (Amalgamation of Police Forces) Regulation of 1942 certain amalgamations of police forces were, as we have been reminded by the Home Secretary, actually effected, and the Home Secretary has also told us that the primary reason for those amalgamations was the facilitation of naval, military and air force operations. Those considerations no longer apply. Actually those amalgamations, none the less, were made for other purposes as well as for those of military operations and the facilitation of the tasks of commanders. Therefore, we have experience of the way in which amalgamations work, and can be made to work, under a system analogous to the one proposed in this Bill. If this Bill is passed it will, in effect, perpetuate the amalgamations which were made under the 1942 Order as far as 14 non-county borough forces are concerned, and it will bring about amalgamations with counties of the remainder of the non-county borough forces.

The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has given us an outline of these proposals. From them it appears that one of the principal effects of the Bill will be to do away with small forces, and there are undoubtedly disadvantages connected with small forces. As the Home Secretary said, in small forces there is very seldom the same standard of general efficiency, because there are not the same facilities for training or the same oportunities for promotion as there are in larger forces. In small forces of a few men the chief or head constable cannot be expected to be of the same calibre as he is in the larger forces for the obvious reason that he has less responsibility, less scope, fewer men to command, and last but not least, a good deal less pay. A small force can seldom have well-trained and well-organised specialist branches, such as were referred to by the Home Secretary. Nor is it likely to have the resources to give it the appliances, which also were mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. Those appliances are very varied indeed. If criminals have the advantage of many modern inventions, so also have the police, and in the case of small forces formed by small communities with slender resources, and whose authorities are naturally anxious on the score of economy, very many necessary appliances and aids to efficiency are often not provided. I think that in the case of these amalgamated forces, which were all in what were termed, for want of a better name, "invasion counties," very great advances were made in the provision of those appliances and of modern means of communication, and to that extent for all purposes those amalgamated police forces benefited very substantially indeed.

There is, then, the question of the relations and co-operation between neighbouring forces. Where there are two police forces in a small area, often with ill-defined boundaries—it is a very important point when nobody quite knows where the area of one authority begins and that of the other one ends—there maybe, and frequently are, doubt and confusion as to which should deal with matters which occur near their mutual boundaries, and there may be, and often is, overlapping. Further, the principal work of the police—which the right hon. Gentleman put first among the duties of the police—the prevention of crime, is very much better carried out by larger forces with larger resources. Small forces very seldom have good detective branches, but none the less, under present arrangements, in the case of undetected crimes it is left to the discretion of the local police chief whether assistance is invited from a larger neighbour or even from Scotland Yard. Yet, as it may be said that the essence of detection is immediate action, the chance of apprehension is very often lost by delay. In a county town there may be the absurd position that the county police headquarters and the small borough force over which the county chief has no authority are situated close together, and perhaps in the same street. The existence in the same town of two police headquarters may very well cause confusion, overlapping and, worst of all, delay in an emergency. Another point is that under the system of a number of forces of varying size, there are apt to be diversities of police working methods, and such diversities, it is obvious, are undesirable in forces in close proximity to one another. Amalgamations obviously will tend to lessen such diversities.

No comparison of the respective merits of borough and county forces would be complete without reference to the powers of the watch committees. Borough forces are controlled by watch committees composed of members of the borough council. County forces are controlled by standing joint committees composed half of magistrates and half of county councillors. But the powers of watch committees are very much greater than those of standing joint committees. That is a point which is not infrequently overlooked. The watch committee's powers include disciplinary powers and powers of deciding appeals. While we should all agree that some degree of local control is desirable, I suggest that the powers of standing joint committees, which comprise only administration, finance and the very important matter of the responsibility of the chief constable to the committee for the efficiency of his force, are quite ample for their purpose. It was those powers, and not the powers of watch committees, which, under the 1942 Order, were given to the joint police authorities which were set up under that Orderand which, under Clause 4 of the Bill, would be wielded by the proposed combined police authorities. I regret what seems to be an omission from the Bill, and that is that the Bill appears to leave the watch committee system in county boroughs which will not be amalagamated. I believe it would be far better to give the same powers to all police authorities, and that those powers should be the powers now wielded by standing joint committees and by the existing joint police authorities. I suggest that the watch committee and its powers are as obsolete in the 20th century as the watchmen from whom their name is derived.

I have referred to some of the reasons why the maintenance of small independent forces is undesirable, but before passing to the experiences of the amalgamations made under the 1942 Order, I would like to remind the House of something that was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston), that the Selection Committee of 1932 strongly recommended amalgamations of non-county boroughs with county forces; and as regards local control and administration of the police, I would also remind the House, as did the Home Secretary, that the Metropolitan Police are not controlled or administered by the London County Council, let alone by the London boroughs; but I have never heard it suggested that their efficiency has suffered on that account, nor indeed, for that matter, that the interests of the London councils have suffered in any way either. If they had I feel perfectly certain that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council would have had something to say about it in this House and outside a very long time ago.

I come now to the experiences of the working of amalgamations under the 1942 Order. The only ones on which I propose to make any remarks are those which occurred in the geographical county of Hampshire, and of which I have some personal knowledge. Under the 1942 Order the Winchester city force and the small Isle of Wight county force were amalgamated with the Hampshire county force, and I will say at once that both Winchester and the Isle of Wight were averse to that amalgamation. They did not want it and both of them opposed it. Yet I can say, as a member of the joint police authority—and I believe it would be agreed by the representatives of those two amalgamated authorities—that amalgamation has worked smoothly and well, and that there has been a complete absence of friction of any kind. Moreover, not only has better organisation and greater efficiency resulted, but by the elimination of overheads—which I suggest is not an unimportant consideration—greater economy has also resulted. There is another point to which I would draw attention. For many years past, as was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, long before the 1942 Order, the County borough of Bournemouth, by mutual agreement with the County of Hampshire, has availed itself of the services of the county police, and to that extent the proposals of Clause 2 as regards voluntary amalgamations may be said to have been anticipated in the County of Hampshire, as in the other seven cases mentioned by the Home Secretary. Bournemouth is represented, as are all the amalgamated authorities, on the joint police authority, and I can assure the House that in this matter of the police both the County and the County borough are satisfied with an arrangement which has lasted for so long and worked so smoothly. I believe that the amalgamations proposed in the Bill will, given good will—and that is of importance—workequally well, and that, as has been the experience in the County of Hampshire, they will make for greater efficiency and in the long run for greater economy.

I do not entirely share the fears that were expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury about the possible use by the Home Secretary of the powers given in Clause 3 to group police forces in great regional commands or even in one great national police force. We have had the assurance of the present Home Secretary that he has no such intention, and that assurance, of course, we can accept, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury reminded the House, there will be other Governments, and as long as those powers remain it is conceivable that some Home Secretary might try to avail himself of them. I think that that is what my hon. Friends are afraid of, but I do not believe that any Home Secretary who had any regard for efficiency or good organisation would do anything of the kind. Greatun wieldy regional forces would be quite useless for police purposes in the amalgamated form and I do not think that any Home Secretary would be likely to avail himself of them. It would only be if some Home Secretary or some totalitarian Government had aspirations for nationally or even politically organised forces that any such thing could happen; but still the powers are very wide.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will meet the objections which have been raised, as he can easily do, in view of the assurance he has given, by making some concession on the Committee stage and moving some Amendment which would limit those powers and make impossible what I certainly think is very improbable, and that is, the undue use of these powers by some future Secretary of State for the Home Department in some future, and at present unimagined, Government. I believe that this Bill in essence is sound. I am certain that these amalgamations will make for efficiency and it is in the interests of efficiency and economy also that I personally feel that my support can be given to the Bill.

5.47 p.m.

I do not propose to detain the House for many minutes in the remarks that I am going to make this afternoon. I should like, first of all, to associate myself very largely with what has just been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys). This form of amalgamation into larger "atoms" so to speak of police forces seems to me to be in the interests of the public. It is obvious that very small police forces cannot possibly do their work satisfactorily, and often are completely ineffective. Therefore, it should be much better for us all if they were larger and better organised.

Much of the trouble and misunderstanding with regard to this Bill has been due to the fact that the local authorities have not been properly approached, and that is the main cause, I should imagine, for the opposition which apparently exists against this Bill. I personally am satisfied that the Home Secretary intends to act in the closest co-operation with the Association of Municipal Corporations and all the authorities concerned, and I hope very much that he will not proceed to the next stage of this Bill until he has listened to all they have to say. I am convinced that if he does this, and there is a certain amount of tact and commonsense on all sides, any misunderstandings which may exist will be cleared up. I am not one who is fearful that there is any intention on the part of the Government, overt or underhand, to get the control over the whole of the police forces in the country. That is the ultimate design of all totalitarian Governments wherever they may be and it may be—although I hope it is not likely—that some day or other such a Government will materialize in this country. I think this is unlikely because none of us, whatever his political views may be, really likes totalitarianism. I honestly believe that the Home Secretary of that day, should a Government try to adopt totalitarian methods, would find it far more difficult to get control of the police forces all over the country if this Bill passed into law and the police forces as units were strengthened throughout the country.

There is tremendous local feeling in Great Britain which extends to the police force, and any Secretary of State who tried to establish complete control over the police would find it more difficult to do so if this Bill became law than he might do at the present time. I am inclined to think that, if the Secretary of State will only be conciliatory with regard to the exercise of his powers under this Bill and equally conciliatory and sympathetic in dealing with the local authorities and the Association of Municipal Corporations, he should be able to get his Bill through with very little difficulty.

5.52 p.m.

:In rising to address this House for the first time, I trust that I may receive that indulgence which is usually granted on these occasions. I would, first, congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary not only upon the contents of this Bill but also upon the fact that he has attained such a very high place in the queue. I find that rather surprising, but acceptable, and very great use can be made of it. Hon. Members who have preceded me have referred to the various advantages which will follow from the amalgamation of these smaller police forces with county forces, and I find myself in complete agreement with the reasons which have been advanced.

May I turn to a point which has not been referred to so far? The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) referred to certain modern devices in the detection of crime. I should like to refer particularly to the use of wireless, because I believe that the use of wireless, not only for the detection of crime but also in such other spheres as traffic control, is going to play a very big part in the immediate future. I should say, from some knowledge that I have of the administrative arrangements of the police, that it would be very difficult indeed to organise an efficient wireless system if counties are to be divided up and to have independent police authorities of a small compass within their boundaries.

Reference has also been made by the hon. and gallant Member for Walsall (Major Wells) to the personal prospects of the members of these small forces, and with that also I wholeheartedly agree. Cases very often arise where young and ambitious officers find themselves stopped in promotion for many years owing to the fact that the force is so small as not to allow of any flexibility, especially where their immediate superiors may not be very much older than they are themselves. I believe that this Bill will be of very great benefit to the officers of the smaller authorities.

A point has been raised from time to time about the question of appeals on disciplinary matters, and I would like the Under-Secretary, when he comes to reply, to tell the House, if he would, what would be the effect of the Police Appeals Act, 1943. I should like to remind the House that that Act was passed mainly as a result of the amalgamation of the forces to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Petersfield has referred. The situation was that the members of a police force which was a borough force amalgamated with a county lost their right of appeal to the watch committee, and in order to overcome that complaint, it was provided that appeal to the Secretary of State should be very considerably extended. I should like the Under-Secretary, when he replies, to tell the House whether in his view, and from what he knows of the views of the Police Federation, that extension has been of benefit and has met the complaint that was made.

I should like to make a few observations about Clauses 2 and 3—the voluntary and compulsory amalgamations. I take it that one of the reasons why the appointed day under this Measure has been fixed as 1st April, 1947, is to enable, as the Home Secretary said in his opening speech, certain adjustments to be made particularly as a result of the future activities, or the activities in the immediate future, of the Local Government Boundary Commission. The Local Government Boundary Commission has power to create new county boroughs and no doubt it will use those powers very shortly. As a result of using those powers a number of borough authorities, which at the moment are not police authorities, will become police authorities. I hope that the Home Secretary will use his powers under Clause 3 of the Bill to keep the existing police arrangements intact. When non-county borough police forces are being amalgamated with the county forces, it is advisable in many cases to make arrangements, where boroughs are to become county boroughs, similar to those which exist between Bournemouth and the county of Hampshire and in several other cases where the county borough and the adjoining county share the police force. The benefits to urban areas are very great indeed, and I hope that the Home Secretary, when he comes to exercise his powers under this Clause, will pay very great attention to those facts. It is true to say that a very great additional burden will be cast on certain counties if they find boroughs within their areas become county boroughs and the counties will themselves be forced to increase their police commitments as a result of that.

I would like to refer to a trend—it has been referred to already in this Debate—which is going on in local government today. It is relevant to refer to the transfer of functions from local authorities generally to the central Government, and I am very glad to hear the Home Secretary give an undertaking that it is not intended to form a State police force. On the other hand, there is the tendency, which has been going on for some years past now, to transfer functions from district councils to county councils. I am not against that, but I do ask that its implications should be examined. May I quote one or two examples in recent years? In the case of food and drugs, for instance, although borough and district councils of a certain size obtained powers, the main powers are now vested in the counties and county boroughs. Under the Education Act, 1944, non-county boroughs have ceased to be education authorities, and the education authorities are now the county councils and the county boroughs. In the field of town and country planning, we have not yet got to the stage where the county is the authority, but the Minister of Town and Country Planning, through the use of his powers under that Act, is forming joint committees all over the country, in many areas compulsorily, and the result of that is to take even more powers away from the boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary himself, probably, has on his desk some tentative proposals for the future of the Fire Service, and, while I would not presume to forecast what he will decide, I think he will agree with me that there are also very great arguments in favour of making the counties and county boroughs the responsible authorities.

The question which we are facing is that, in the police as in all these other services, the responsibility is being pushed a little bit higher. Greater areas of administration are being formed through necessity, and that is in line with modern trends. I ask that the corollary of that development should be observed, and the corollary of having larger areas of administration is a greater degree of delegation in the ordinary day-to-day existence in running the service. Suggestions have been made that, in the case of the police, certain areas or authorities which form part of a greater authority should retain their watch committees. I do not find myself in agreement with that suggestion. I think it would be absolutely unworkable. On the other hand, the Home Secretary, earlier in this Debate, has expressed somewhat forcibly his view that he has certain powers of persuasion over the police forces in this country, and I would ask him to use those powers of persuasion in cases where sufficient delegation is not already observed. There are police forces in this country where matters of detail have to be referred to the chief constable at county headquarters—matters which could be decided by a superintendent on the spot—and I hope that a policy directive will be issued by the Home Office calling attention to the necessity for delegating all possible powers to superintendents.

One of the big arguments put forward for these independent borough police forces is the fact that we can go to the man who is responsible—the chief constable—and get a decision, and that, I believe, is a fact which is very valuable, but, at the same time, we need not sacrifice that valuable feature merely by making the areas of administration greater. We can delegate. In a Debate a few days ago, the hon. and gallant Member for Oswestry (Colonel O. Poole)—I am very glad to see him in his place—was good enough to call upon me to back him up on the subject of Military Staffs. I would ask for his support now to the proposition that the essence of successfully running a large organisation is not only the ability to give your subordinates the work to do, but also that you should accept their answers when they produce them.

6.5 p.m.

I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months." It is my very pleasant duty to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Major Asterley Jones) on his maiden speech. He has a very clear delivery, and also produced clear reasoning, and, above all, he showed that he has studied this subject and studied the Bill and has spent a great deal of time on that study. I hope that, in the days to come, we shall hear the hon. and gallant Member on more occasions.

As hon. Members have said, this Bill presented today, in the principles which it contains, is no new matter. The Desborough Committee Report in 1920, and again, the Select Commitee of this House which sat in 1932, considered this question. Some of us cannot understand why it is, in view of the fact that the principles contained in this Bill are by no means new, that no mention of a Bill of this nature, of such importance and interest to local authorities, was made in the Gracious Speech at the opening of Parliament. It is significant also that this Bill was first introduced into this House on 18th October—only a fortnight ago—just at the time when the local authorities throughout the country were embarking upon their own local elections for a new local government, and it is, if I may say so, adding insult to injury that we have to consider the Second Reading of this Bill on the day which has been fixed for the polling for local elections.

I would like to ask the Government why there is all this hurry about this Bill. Why should not the newly-elected local authorities have a reasonable time to consider the Government's proposals before the Government asks for the Second Reading of the Bill? Here, I would submit, we have one more illustration of the dictatorial attitude that is imposed upon the House from time to time by the new Front Bench, not only upon this House but upon the local authorities as well.

The Select Committee in 1932 made certain proposals, and the principal recommendation which they made was that amalgamations of police forces should proceed in police areas where there was a population of under 30,000. That recommendation has never been seriously challenged, and I do not propose to challenge it today, but this Bill goes con- siderably further than that. In the first place, Clause 1 I understand, has come as a complete shock to a great many local authorities throughout the country. The right hon. Gentleman may have discussed Clause 1with the Association of Municipal Corporations privately, but the local authorities throughout the country did not know that Clause 1 was going to mean the complete abolition of the separate police forces in all non-county boroughs. I do not believe that the 27 local authorities which, according to the 1931 census, had populations of over 30,000, thought that they were going to be affected so seriously by this Bill.

Clause 2 provides for voluntary amalgamations, and I cannot complain about that. I will accept Clause 2, but Clause 3 is the real nigger in the wood pile. It gives complete power to the Home Secretary, and I would like to refresh the memory of hon. Members by quoting from the Explanatory Memorandum:
"Clause 3 empowers the Secretary of State to make compulsory schemes of amalgamation where he is satisfied that it is expedient, etc…."
and then it goes on to say:
"If the police authorities concerned do not assent to these proposals, a local inquiry, conducted by an independent person, must be held."
That sounds all very well, but these local inquiries are usually held by some prominent lawyer, who goes down to the area concerned and holds the inquiry but knows in his own mind that the Secretary of State has already made up his mind, even if the local authority or the local people at the inquiry oppose the Minister. He knows also in what an invidious position he will be if he goes against Government policy. However independent a man may be, and however impartial in his judgment, it is a very unpleasant task to act as an impartial investigator if he knows that the Home Secretary has already made up his mind and that the proposed amalgamation is a matter of Government policy. Then we come to this:
"Schemes made by the Secretary of State under this clause must be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and will be subject to a Negative Resolution."
What safeguard is there in that? I submit that there is no safeguard whatever in a negative resolution. If the Government Whips are put on, and we all know what that means—[An HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Member knew it too."]—Yes, but I sometimes disobeyed. If the Whips are put on, and a free vote is not allowed, the Member of Parliament representing the affected constituency has absolutely no chance whatever of winning his case against the Government. This idea of a negative Resolution is, I submit, a mockery of democracy and is put in the Bill to look like a safeguard when it is no safeguard at all.

In 1942, the then Home Secretary and the present Leader of the House, in the face of considerable opposition, introduced an Order in Council under the Defence Regulations, 1939–40. This Order provided for the compulsory amalgamation of certain police forces of which that in my constituency was one, and the plea put forward at that time was that it was a military necessity. It was said to be necessary, first of all, because the Germans might invade our South East coast, and, secondly, because of the secret arrangements which were being made for the D-day landing. I agree that there may have been at that time, a military necessity for amalgamating the police forces, but, when we argued this point with the Home Secretary of the day, we were not really convinced that it was, in fact, a military necessity. We were not really convinced that this was not, perhaps, a bit of a blind to do something in wartime which it would be difficult to undo in times of peace, and, now that we have seen this new Bill, I am still not convinced that that amalgamation was not a bit of a blind.

The only justification for the Bill is if the efficiency of the police service can be increased, that is, if its efficiency can be increased in the detection of crime. In the county borough of Eastbourne, we have had experience of amalgamation. We know what it was like before and we now know what it is like since, and it is the opinion of the local authority, who, after all, should be the best and most competent people to judge their own local matters, that there has been no increased efficiency or otherwise. Had it not been for the fact that, in our area, we had a keen, capable, able and very charming chief constable, there might have been a great many more difficulties than have already presented themselves. I cannot help feeling that a future Home Secretary may use this Bill, with its limitless oppor- tunities, to create what has been talked about already during the Debate, a national police force, a sort of private army with a super-policeman controlling it under the powers and directions of the Home Secretary. To my mind it all smells too much of the German, Italian, Spanish and Russian ideas—

:On a point of Order, is not the present charming chief constable under the direction of the present Home Secretary?

Most certainly, I never said he was not. I merely referred to him in that vein because he has been able to get over difficulties which otherwise might have been more serious. The police forces of Britain have always been the admiration and envy of the world, and I ask the Government, Why tear down the system which has proved to be excellent, a system that has been successful in most ways and retains the very personal interest of the local authorities and the local ratepayers—in fact the people of the country? Why tear that down and substitute for it large impersonal machines apeing the lower standards of the dictatorship countries? I feel I must say this, whatever my hon. Friends may say who speak from the Front Bench above the Gangway. I hope sufficient numbers will be found in this House this evening to go into the Division Lobby against the Government's proposals.

6.17 p.m.

I beg to second the Amendment.

I do not approach this Bill quite in the same frame of mind as the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it, but I most sincerely believe that the right hon. Gentleman would much have preferred to come down to this House with a Measure such as the Criminal Justice Bill, which all are longing to see but about the introduction of which there are difficulties because of housing and so on. I believe the right hon. Gentleman would like to come here with a great Measure, instead of having to present a Measure which is of very little importance indeed.

I approach the Bill in a different frame of mind from the right hon. Gentleman because I tend to turn my mind away from the perpetual admiration of police forces, the perpetual improvements of courts of justice, the perpetual improvements of cages where people are shut up. For instance, in my view the public interest in criminal matters is not sufficiently directed to the object that I believe we all have here. We would like to see some of the courts shut up; we do not want to see more and more counts, and bigger and bigger police forces. Therefore I find this Bill distasteful, because I believe we are doing something tonight which in the first place will result in very few more captures of criminals. I noticed that the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) addressing the House on the subject of this joint authority said that one is rarely able to find any information which shows that the returns of these police authorities reveal great improvement as a result of these amalgamations. I am sure there are sufficient people of experience in this House to know that statistics are not always what they appear to be. Statistics may be extremely misleading. I see the right hon. Gentleman nodding his head. It may be that they do not give an absolutely accurate picture, and therefore I do not put too much stress on them. Nevertheless, I would like to have from the Government some kind of material to show that, in fact, the numbers of cases which have resulted after the amalgamation, have shown some improvement in the detection of crime. I am quite ignorant about that, as all hon. Members must be, because the figures have not been published.

May I remind the House—to give another reason why I am seconding this Amendment—that the Desborough Committee having worked for four years and reported first in 1919, put a minimum of population before the formation of an independent police force. My recollection is that it was 100,000. Nothing was done in that respect; that is to say, no provision was made at that time to effect these amalgamations but, as time went on, and 1932 was reached, the whole matter was gone into in minute detail. I bought the Report of the Select Committee for 1932—it cost 11s. and was very voluminous—and it is quite obvious from it that there are very many interests involved indeed. Nobody, I think, has spoken actually for the ordinary police constables on the beat. Some, of course, like the idea, some do not. A certain number of constables, for instance, are very much averse from leaving their bounds and going out into the country districts and being more or less abandoned on country beats; others in country areas dislike finding that on their days off they have to remain within their bounds.

In spite of the Select Committee going into this matter in great detail and arriving at the figure of 30,000 instead of 100,000, we now find no limit. I think this is not a party matter and I rather regret it was said that there was this view of the Opposition. What I do not understand is how any particular figure is ever reached. I cannot conceive why 30,000 is reached any more than 40,000 or 20,000 or 70,000. That seems to me to be quite incomprehensible, and it looks to me as if there has been some sort of compromise. That is the obvious suggestion. Nevertheless I would try to impress on the House that it is extremely undesirable that there should be a possibility of a perpetual nibbling from the Home Office at various police forces. I do not at all want the House to think that I am looking upon the right hon. Gentleman as a potential nibbler. I do not think he is a nibbler but, although he gives me such confidence and sits there so comfortably and so pleasantly, we might see others sitting there at some future date, who are nibblers.

The strongest argument in favour of this scheme is that which lurks at the back of everybody's mind—that the bigger the police force the better. I do not believe that the bigger police forces are necessarily better than the smaller ones, and, of course, one will get "Hear, hear" on that statement from the gentlemen who are anxious to preserve their little forces. But, as I say, at the back of everybody's mind there is a nasty and unpleasant thought that the bigger the police force the better it really is. When one looks at a vast organisation such as the Metropolitan Police, the tendency is to think that probably, on the whole, it is rather better—to put it as gently as that. So one will find that, although the right hon. Gentleman tonight does not intend to have a regional police scheme, it would not be unreasonable in a few months' time, or in a year or two, for someone to come down here in the position of the right hon. Gentleman and say, "We find as a result of experience that this has worked so well that we are going to carry it a little further. We find that big police forces work very well and we are proposing that there shall be an even bigger police force." I have not the slightest doubt that it would be said with perfect reason and great force. That being so, I am anxious to say this: Although it might be true that great efficiency comes from greater numbers—and let us assume that it is so—yet, so far as I know, there are numbers of people throughout this country who do not want to lose their comparatively small police forces. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman realises the figure I am aiming at, because I represent the City of Exeter, and I should like something much lower than my population—I should like something in the neighbourhood of 30,000 as the minimum for one's local police force. But I should like an assurance that there would be some limit somewhere, so that the nibbling process should not go on. One can see how the nibbling process may be very disagreeable.

I noticed what the right hon. Gentleman said about an intimation from the Secretary of State. An intimation from the Secretary of State is, indeed, a serious and solemn matter, causing considerable anxiety in the minds of those who do not respond to it, and I think that what the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) said in respect of persons the right hon. Gentleman may appoint to be chairman, had something in it. May I ask the House to look at Clause 3 of the Bill. This appears to me to be objectionable. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State with all his authority—and I am speaking now of any Secretary of State—decides:
"…that it is expedient in the interests of efficiency that an amalgamation scheme should be made…."
Having done so, one notices on reading through Clause 3 that he then has to approach the local police authorities and if they do not write and say, "Yes, we agree," he does something. By that time everybody knows that the right hon. Gentleman has made up his mind that there ought to be amalgamation. What does he do? He then appoints somebody to go down. It could not be anybody more open-minded than the right hon. Gentleman we have with us tonight, and it would be somebody, I suppose, of my great profession. I speak with some knowledge of these inquiries because the Lord President of the Council sent me to do the Huddersfield inquiry. When I went there, no question of any pressure arose. I did not know what the Home Secretary wanted. But when one of my colleagues goes down under Clause 3 of this Bill he will know very well that the Home Secretary of the future—fierce or pleasant, whatever he may be—will have decided that police force A and police force B should be amalgamated. Indeed, if one looks at the wording of this Clause one will notice that it says that "it is expedient in the interests of efficiency." I am afraid that the very natural effect would be to bring into force the argument to which I have already referred, that is, the bigger the police force the more efficient it will be.

:It might interest the hon. and learned Gentleman to know that we had a similar Section in the Education Act of 1944. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) appointed an inspector, after he had drawn up a scheme for the amalgamation of local education authorities. The inspector went down to the area, held the inquiry, and reported against it.

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I was not aware of the actual case, but it had been mentioned to me that such a thing had happened. However, I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that the facts are not similar—that is to say, as to what the form of the inquiry is to be and the grounds on which they are to act, which are "that it is not expedient in the interests of efficiency." I do not think those words are in the Education Act. I may be wrong; I am quite open to correction.

:I am inclined to think they are not quite the same, but whatever happened in Saffron Walden—and I have no doubt it all worked out for the best—nevertheless the point must have some substance in it. The House will know that those persons who are appointed to carry out these inquiries are appointed for their integrity, and so on. Yet you can well imagine that the mind must be coloured by the fact that the Secretary of State has decided that, in his view, the forces should be amalgamated. That is exactly what we are getting. I do not say it is impossible of alteration, but the Clause is clumsily worded and, as it is worded like that, I object to it.

I dislike the Bill quite largely on those grounds, but they are not the only grounds. I have listened most anxiously to the arguments put forward, of the experience during the war, showing that there has been no friction, and so on, and that everybody has been happy. I am not enormously impressed with that at all. I daresay it is perfectly true, but I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman—and I believe there are many in this House who feel exactly as I do on this point—that we are a very old people. A lot of us in this House are quite young, but, nevertheless, as a people, we are a very old people. I am now going to pull out the stop on what I call the local feeling, which has not been sufficiently met. A lot of us are extremely proud of the fact that we have, for many years, conducted ourselves extremely well in our local areas. We have conducted our police forces very efficiently, and that is a thing of immense and real local pride to persons who enter local government, and not to those only. The citizens themselves are really proud of their police forces. If, in fact, I felt certain—and hon. Members can imagine how interested I should be in that—we were going to catch more criminals, that would be very good news indeed. But I do not believe it for an instant.

I noticed during the Debate that an argument was put forward about the efficiency of forces. My city happens to have wireless. The county force has not got wireless. I think we are more efficient, for that reason, than the county, but the argument is met with the reply—hon. Members will see how difficult it is to argue on these things—"Oh, yes, your city is so excellent; we want to improve the county." They have it both ways every time. We seem to be living, if I may say so, in an age where there is a tremendous temptation to wish on to the people by way of legislation, things the people do not want at all. They do not want to have these forces. If they did want them, well and good. I suppose we may have been near to scandals in some of the very small police forces. I may be wrong, but my experience leads me to think that one might have got close to scandals in certain areas. Nevertheless, the system has worked extremely well.

If hon. Members will look at the criminal statistics, they will find that the most extraordinary thing about them is that, whereas you would expect less crime in certain parts of the country per 1,000 of the population, the rate of crime is astonishingly evenly spread all over the Kingdom. One might imagine that the city of Plymouth would be lower in crime statistics because of its situation. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman turn over a new leaf and stop having big prisons, and set his face hard next week and say, "I have made up my mind to take the lads who are in one of these prisons out of it"? If he knows that, in a month or two, or perhaps a year, there will be some very large police forces because bigger police forces are better, I would beg him to reconsider this matter and think, perhaps, that in doing so, he will be getting nearer to the will of the people. We have had a long time. The right hon. Gentleman had one hour and 30 minutes today, I am afraid it was, from 3.29 to 4.50. Whatever he said, it was said charmingly, but, if I may say so, with great respect to him, we are still unconvinced that this Bill is really necessary. We very much wish it had been something which would really have prevented crime and achieved an object which is near to all our hearts—the betterment of conditions.

6.35 p.m.

Addressing this House for the first time, I trust that it will extend to me that indulgence which it customarily shows to inexperience. My right hon. Friend, in introducing this Bill, not only made out a strong case for the amalgamation of the smaller forces, but also answered in advance the arguments of the mover and seconder of the Amendment. He did so by the emphatic terms in which he expressed his willingness to meet, now and on the Committee stage of the Bill, the representatives of the local authorities, and the other interests concerned in the matter. It is agreed that this is a question on which it is best to go as far as possible by agreement, and to go as short a distance as possible by compulsion. I believe that the pronouncement of my right hon. Friend will be very welcome, and I trust that, in his consultations, he will include, not only the local authorities, but also the representatives of the police officers of all ranks.

The first matter to which I hope it will be possible to give attention is the special position of the larger non-county boroughs. It so happens that one of these falls in the division which I have the honour to represent. The borough of Colchester is not, by any means, the largest of the non-county boroughs affected by this Bill, but it is worth noting that, in point of 1931 population, it is larger than seven of the counties, which, according to the statistics provided by my right hon. Friend in a written reply yesterday, maintain independent police forces at the present time. These large boroughs already have, in many cases, special problems of their own, and I trust that my right hon. Friend will be able to give some consideration to their position and to their special problems. We have heard mention of the figures which appeared in the report of the Select Committee in 1932. Perhaps my right hon. Friend, when he replies to the Debate, will not be able to refer to any specific figure, but I hope it will be possible, in the consultations on this Bill, to take that aspect into consideration. My right hon. Friend spoke very coldly of Clause 1 and very warmly of Clause 2, although he went on to qualify that warmth by speaking very sadly of Clause 3. I would ask him to consider whether, perhaps, he may not bring some of the larger non-county boroughs away from the provisions of Clause 1, of which he spoke socoldly, and under the provisions of Clause 2, which he approached with more warmth.

The second matter is the nature of the police authorities who are to exist after the absorption of the non-county boroughs. The scope and the variety of the work of county police authorities are bound to be extended, and increased by the passage of the Bill. The responsibilities of the chief constables in the counties will be increased and extended. I hope it will be possible to take note of the feeling in the larger non-county boroughs, and, indeed, in the smaller ones as well, that their experience in police matters, which extends over a very long period of time, may not be fully represented, and may not be fully effective, unless there is some reconsideration of the constitution of the county police authorities, thus going a little further than was indicated by my right hon. Friend in reply to a questioner in the course of his speech.

We have had references, which it is, perhaps, not out of place to mention in this connection, to the influence which the Home Secretary can exert upon the police authorities which exist. I hope it will not be out of place for me to express the hope that my right hon. Friend will use that influence when the question of the appointment of new chief constables arises, to encourage the local authorities, as far as possible, to appoint personnel from within the police force, and not to bring individuals from outside, however able, conscientious, and suitable they may be. It always appears to me—and I know it does to other hon. Members—as an unwarrantable under-estimation of the abilities of the rank and file of the police force, and of those who have served many years in it. Unfortunately, it is a form of under-estimation which is a little bit too common in the public service.

The third matter has already been referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hitchin (Major Asterley Jones), and I would add my plea, that my right hon. Friend, when he replies to the Debate, should make reference to it. We have, quite rightly, provision in the Bill to safeguard the position of chief constables. I sincerely hope that we shall not verlook the position of the rather important majority of members of the police force who do not happen to be chief constables, and that we shall ensure that their position is not in any way prejudiced. It is quite clear that the position of many members of smaller forces will be materially improved, but I hope that my right hon. Friend, in his consideration of the Bill and his consideration of the representations he may receive, will ensure that the rights and position of no member of the force are in any way worsened by this Measure. We have already had a most welcome pronouncement by the Home Secretary on one specific question—the position of the members of the borough police forces who do not wish to serve outside the borough itself. I sincerely hope that he will show an attitude as sympathetic to any other question of a similar kind which may arise. The rights of the individual members of the police force are already too circumscribed in many respects, and it would be most unsatisfactory if they were, in any degree, even in the smallest degree, worsened by this Measure. In all this, I trust my right hon. Friend will not believe that any suspicion or anxiety which may be shown by any local authority, or any person concerned, is in any way a matter of narrow parochialism, of false pride. It arises from a knowledge that for a very long time the enforcement of law and the maintenance of order have been carried out satisfactory, within the boundaries of these authorities, by forces under their own control. That has been done in peace and war, and I trust that in the search for economy and efficiency the flexibility and adaptability which has arisen in the past through local control will not be altogether lost in the future.

6.45 p.m.

I find myself extremely fortunate tonight in that it is my privilege to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Colchester (Captain C. Smith), who comes from a neighbouring constituency—thank goodness Colchester has seen the light—on his maiden speech. Far from being a lonely figure from East Anglia, I am now one of the mob of which my hon. and gallant Friend is also one. I hope we shall hear more from him during the Committee stage of this Bill. I rise to oppose the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Taylor) and the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude), who moved and seconded the rejection of this Bill. Listening to the hon. Member for Eastbourne I could realise his fears—a general inhibition against change.

:The hon. Member cannot have change unless he risks it being for the worse. I should have thought that he would have put forward a better argument. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter tried to suggest that one of the objects of this Bill was to catch more criminals. That has not entered my mind. If the hon. and learned Member wants to know how to catch criminals he had better study the percentage of crime against private property, and thus find a solution of the problem, although it would not be appropriate for me to enter into such a discussion now. While I naturally dislike police of any kind whatever I do not oppose this Bill, although there are certain aspects of it which I do not like, and on which I am supported by authorities in my constituency. What I want to guard against is over-centralisation which would result in a supreme "copper" standing at that Box and governing the whole show. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There are right hon. and hon. Members opposite who are Gestapo-minded. That bug came out of their brains, not mine. I am not afraid of any Member on this side of the House; I am afraid of Members opposite getting in. I do not wish to pick a very serious quarrel with the Minister, but it is a fact that my own Watch Committee, who have a very respected Labour chairman, are entirely opposed to some aspects of this Measure. They draw attention to a fact already referred to, that the Association of Municipal Corporations has unanimously criticised it. My right hon. Friend talked about the number of non-county borough police areas but, in fact, there are only 47 which are concerned. The others do not come into the picture at all, and it is no argument to say that the majority of the non-county borough areas do not mind. Of course, they do not.

Then there is the inappropriateness of the moment. I really object to legislation of any kind whatever, but I have always objected to over-haste in legislation and I think there is substance in the complaint that the Bill should have been introduced now, when the minds of local authorities are pre-occupied in carrying on municipal elections. There may be good reasons why the Bill has been introduced now, but at any rate that is one of the objections. Some of us have the unpleasant feeling that this might lead one day to the situation I have described as happening at that Box. I want an assurance from my right hon. Friend that he will repeat the essentials of the speech made by the Lord President of the Council on 14th October, 1942. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There is nothing to cheer about; this is important, and I am sure we shall get it from my right hon. Friend. This is what he said:
"What I want to do in the class of area with which we are concerned is to merge two smallish police forces into one, or a smallish police force into a bigger one."
That is quite right. He went on:
"As I have said, my real purpose in this matter is to merge smallish forces with each other, and smallish forces with bigger forces and that sort of thing, so that the complication of the small police forces should cease to exist, and we can have a police force in the area which is of a substantial character and sufficient.''
With that we all agree, and I hope we shall get reaffirmation of that point of view tonight. It has been pointed out that the Bill goes much further than that. It was put to me that this was the first step towards a centralised police force, and that the big cities and the county boroughs which do not want to amalgamate voluntarily might be forced to do so by the Home Secretary. If there is a real reasonlet us hear it now, but if there is not let us put a provision into the Bill which will prevent hon. Members opposite from doing it anyway.

There is another point. My right hon. Friend laughingly referred to the necessity for having police forces which understood local visitors and he took me as a sample, heaven knows why, of a possible visitor to Great Yarmouth. What the local police there do not know about me is not worth knowing. I do not think his simile was a very good one, but I see the importance of having, as local police, people who understand the people they are administering. I cannot imagine anything more disastrous than bringing the Glasgow police down to Ipswich. There would be nothing more hopeless than infiltrating into a place like Cambridge police who do not understand the undergraduates. My ambition as an undergraduate was to capture a policeman's helmet. Try that on a policeman from Ebbw Vale and see where you get off.

Does my hon. Friend assert that all the police in Cambridge were born in Cambridgeshire? Is it not true that there are many Irishmen in the Cambridge police?

:Irish people are notoriously tolerant. Nobody likes laws. Naturally anarchy is what is really desirable, but as we cannot have that we have to put up with policemen. But, for heaven's sake, do have policemen who understand things, even although they may be a little irregular. I cannot cite a better case than the American policemen who walk about with white basins on their heads. I asked an American officer why that was so, and he said, "So the boys can see them coming in the dark," which is a very reasonable approach to the whole problem. I quite see that local atmosphere and colour matter a great deal. On the question of efficiency, I would ask my right hon. Friend to examine some of the figures. In Ipswich we have 60 per cent. successful detection of crime, a figure which, I am told, is very high. Either we in Ipswich are very simple, or our police are very clever. Anyway, it seems to work very well, and we have no desire whatever to be amalgamated any further.

I have spoken too long but, seriously, I feel that it might have been an advantage, although it may not have been possible, had this matter been allowed to wait until the Report of the Boundary Commission. I do not profess to be an authority on local matters, so I end where I started. I hate policemen, and I think that in an ideal State there would not be any. What we want from the Home Secretary is a repeated assurance of what the Lord President of the Council said in his memorable speech of 14th October, 1942:
"I have assured the House that it is not part of the purpose of these Regulations to establish a national police force."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th October, 1942; Vol. 383, c 1733–34.]

7.0 p.m.

I take it that the speech of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) is not intended to be taken seriously.

:I was glad to notice that the hon. Member performed his usual acrobatic feat of pretending to speak for the Labour Party, although his innate common sense required him to support the case we are making. This is a somewhat serious matter. For some considerable time there has been uncomfortable apprehension on the part of many local authorities and police themselves that there is a tendency for the central Government to centralise the police forces of this country. When we find that this Bill was introduced and printed only a fortnight ago, at a time when members of local authorities were busily engaged on their elections, and the very date, 1st November, the day on which they are polling is selected for debating the Second Reading, one gets a rather sinister feeling that these apprehensions were justified.

I want to deal with the case, if it can be called a case, which the Home Secretary has made for this Bill. It is first necessary to go back to that occasion in October, 1942, when the Lord President was Home Secretary, and when, by use of Defence Regulations, he amalgamated many of the police forces in the Southern counties. He then made only three points upon which he sought to justify these amalgamations. One was the possibility of invasion of the South coast; the second was that it was necessary in order to maintain a proper liaison with the American commanders; and the third was that it was necessary in order to deal with espionage. I take it that we can assume that none of these reasons exists now. When these reasons are gone, what is left? The only suggestion which is made is that it will make for increased efficiency. I daresay it may be true that some of the very small forces consisting of 15 or 20 members are not efficient, but naturally the Home Secretary is in a difficult position over this, because he dare not stand at that Box and suggest any particular forces which are inefficient.

I represent a non-county borough and a county borough, both of whom will be affected by this Bill. The non-county borough of Hove, with a population of 54,000, has a police force of 98. If the Under-Secretary is replying to this Debate, I challenge him to say that the Hove police force is inefficient. Unless he can say that, he is not making out any case for abolishing it. But that is what he is doing by this Bill. This is a very efficient police force in a large borough, and it is to be swept out of existence by this Bill. Adjoining it is Brighton, with a comparatively large police force of 224 for a population of 154,000. It is a county borough force which can be affected by this Bill.

I am bound to say that most of us regard the future of the county borough forces rather gloomily if the Bill becomes law. There is not the slightest doubt that, once these powers are obtained, they will be put into operation and the county borough forces will also be abolished. The nature of the course which the Home Office has followed in dealing with the police points in that direction. Under this Bill there is no reason why the Home Secretary, if he felt so disposed, should not combine the police forces of, say, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, and begin to get a small regional force. Then, having made perhaps half a dozen or a dozen or even more regions throughout England, he could begin to unite two or three regions, perhaps the whole of the Southern counties, the whole of the Midland counties and the whole of the Northern counties, and finally merge all those regions into one and arrive at a national police force.

I ask hon. Members opposite who represent non-county and county boroughs to assert themselves on this matter. It is no party issue. Many of them are new to this House, and I urge them not to be frightened by their Whips. I do not know whether the Government are putting their Whips on to-night, but let me assure hon. Members that nothing will happen to them if they disregard their Whips. I ask those who represent boroughs to remember that they were sent here first and foremost to represent those boroughs and not to allow themselves to be told by other people when they are here what they are to do. Hon. Members so placed will have to go back to their divisions, and they may be asked what they did when the case of their particular police force was argued. I hope they will be able to say that they acted in the interests of their local forces and sought to retain their existence, and that they had the courage to vote against the Government on the Bill.

The case which the Government have tried to make is non-existent. There is no reason for this Bill except a tendency towards the nationalisation of the police or towards producing a national police force. The power is taken in the Bill and it can be put into operation. I am not content with merely an assurance that that will not be done. Of course, I accept it from the present Home Secretary. If he says he will not do it, I accept his assurance. If, however, he takes the power, there is no reason why some subsequent Home Secretary should not operate that power and arrive at a national police force. If the present Government do notintend that, there is no reason why they should not say so in the Bill. That would limit the powers of any future Home Secretary. We know that in a matter of assurances times change, and in a few years time another Home Secretary can come to the House and say, "It is true that that assurance was given, but conditions have altered since and it is necessary to go another step forward"—a step which I should regard as backward. I ask the Home Secretary that if he, as I am sure he does, genuinely intends his pledge that there shall be no extension beyond what is actually stated by him to be his present intentions, it should be put in the Bill. The Bill as it stands does not meet with my approval. I shall divide against it, and I hope that many hon. Members opposite will come into the Lobby with us.

7.7 p.m.

:I am afraid that, like many others who have already spoken, I shall have to say something against this Bill. First and foremost, I agree that every moment of Parliamentary time taken up by the Bill is wasted. I am convinced of this because I am sure that the Boundary Commission in its operations cannot avoid covering the ground which this Bill is intended to cover. Many of the non-county boroughs, perhaps all of them, will be involved by the Boundary Commission's decisions in regard to amalgamations. They will be amalgamated into county boroughs, and whatever may have been done under this Bill in the meantime will be set at nought. The tendency of the time is for the smaller towns to grow and become county boroughs, requiring and taking more and more land from the counties, so that the county areas become smaller. The operation of this Bill can have no logical effect, but by a series of continued amalgamations over a period, resulting in the welding together of a number of increasingly large authorities, until eventually regional organisation in police matters will automatically and by a backdoor method become inevitable. We ought to wait until the Boundary Commission have indicated what, for the ensuing generation perhaps, ought to be the local authority organisation of the country, and then we should build our local services on that in so far as they are local services.

I deny the statement of the Home Secretary that the local police force, as it is called, is a local service. It is not and never was. Hon. Members in the Opposition are horrified at the idea of a national service. The police force is spread out from Land's End to John o' Groats, but it is controlled by the Home Office. Every force in the country is controlled from beginning to end by the Home Office. Although on our local councils we imagine ourselves to be very important people if we can secure election on the watch committee, we know, as members of the council, that however proud we may be of our own borough police force, we can neither appoint nor dismiss a police constable, we cannot decide how many superintendents, inspectors and sergeants, we shall have, nor can we decide what the conditions of service are to be. All these things are controlled by the Home Office. It is a local service in that we are permitted to pay one-half the cost of it, and we are not allowed to do anything but discuss financial matters, with which again we are not allowed to interfere.

It has been said that the borough police force is controlled as a local organisation by the people of the town, but that is not true. It is controlled by the Home Office. If it is a local service, why is it, in the case of an emergency, the chief constable does not insist on interviewing the town clerk, and insist on the town clerk calling a special meeting of the watch committee, and the watch committee insist on an emergency meeting of the local council to discuss the emergency? That does not happen, for the chief constable has had his instructions from the Home Office, and has acted upon them and continued to carry out Home Office instructions till the end of the emergency. The suggestion that there is local control is a myth. So far as I am concerned, amalgamations on the grounds of efficiency may be carried out. I have no objection, provided that the fact is accepted that you are amalgamating two sections of a national force, and, subsequently, you will bear the cost of running that new amalgamated force.

In my opinion it is a most unwise and unnecessary thing. Here you have two adjoining county boroughs. One is a large one, the other is smaller, each with a separate police force. In the near future, instead of a very large force here, and a small one there, obviously you must, in the interests of efficiency, set up a combined police force, and if they are not prepared to combine voluntarily, do it by compul- sion. Supposing you do that. These two county borough councils, at the moment, believe that they have some control over their local affairs. Hon. Members know, and I know, that that is only a belief. For this new combined police force it would be necessary to send a few, say, half a dozen representatives from the smaller one, and about 20 from the large one. They become the new authority, armed with county or county borough powers. In addition to each of these two exercising compulsory powers for the acquisition of land, we now have a third body, with similar powers for acquiring land for police purposes. Who is to decide what the police purposes are? The two county boroughs from whom the police powers have now been divorced? No. It is decided either by the new combined police authority or by the Home Office. This shows that the control is not local, but vested in Whitehall.

It seems logical, after accepting what is in the Bill, that the large Manchester police force and the smaller Salford one should be merged to make one efficient force. No one can deny that they are both efficient forces at the present time, nor can anyone deny that there has never been any interruption in efficient police work because of the boundary in existence between the two forces. If it is logical to say that these shall be merged, the same will apply to Liverpool and Bootle. In a few months' time along will come the Boundary Commission. They may say that Manchester is too big, we must find ways of making Manchester smaller—Manchester ought to be two, three or more towns. What is to happen to the combined police force? Salford, they say, is a county borough. Manchester is too large, and Salford is too small and must be spread out over a larger area. The same would apply, as between Liverpool and Bootle. Liverpool is too large, too unwieldy, sprawling; Bootle is congested. That is one of our difficulties today. We want land for the congested areas to expand. If the Boundary Commissioners judge from the human point of view they must inevitably decide that the congested ones must have space, fresh air and sunshine. But in doing that what happens to the new scheme which has been outlined today? I suggest that the Home Secretary would be wise if he accepted suggestions that have been made to him that he should take a long time between the Second Reading and the Committee stage. I would suggest that he should take so long that in the meantime the Boundary Commission will have done its job, and by that time the Committee stage will not be required.

7.20 p.m.

My first duty is to bring to the notice of the House and the Under-Secretary a representation I have had from the town clerk of Birmingham on behalf of the watch committee of that city. It is, I think, really a drafting point. They are apprehensive that, although the Bill is doubtless designed to amalgamate small forces, it may, as drafted, have this effect, that if a large county borough such as Birmingham or Manchester were to alter its boundary, and take in a portion of an adjacent area, it would then become amenable to the creation of one of the joint police authorities envisaged by the Bill. I do not think that is intended. It may even be that the Bill has not been read with accuracy. I do not think the Under-Secretary will have any difficulty in giving me an assurance that nothing of that kind is intended. I need not say that I shall be very happy, should this Bill have a Second Reading, to pass to him between now and the Committee stage the correspondence on the matter.

Having discharged that duty, I wish to add a few wordson my own account. I have at different times done a good deal of local government work, but I have never served on a watch committee. I cannot claim any knowledge of police administration, and I come to the whole matter of this Bill with a perfectly open mind. I enjoyed, as everyone must have done, the very interesting speech made by the Home Secretary, but speaking as a convinced local authority man, I felt very uneasy when I heard him say that this was a non-party matter. People of any experience of local government know that parties come and parties go. Sometimes we are governed by Liberals, sometimes Tories, sometimes Labour, but Whitehall never sleeps, and is for ever on the lookout to increase its authority at the expense of local authorities. To say that this is a non-party Measure was probably the most damning thing that could be said about it.

I suppose that every person in this Chamber has within the past few months fought a fiercely contested Election. Will anyone here say that any person said a word for or against any Measure of this sort? Were the electorate greatly excited to know whether or not we would support such a Police Bill as this? Of course they were not. The fact is that there is no demand for any Bill of the kind.

That does not quite settle it. Democrat though I am, I understand that people are not sent to this House as mere delegates of the electorate, but to do their duty and carry through Measures which they think are for the public good. We have to go further, and we find that there appears to be no positive evidence that the police forces of the non-county boroughs are, in fact, at all inefficient. I do not state that merely on the legal point that they are all certified to be efficient, because I suppose that could really mean efficient according to their standards. I would rather put it on the broader ground that, unless one can show some very positive advantage in the prevention and the detection of crime, I do not think that a Measure which interferes with the local autonomy and self-government of the Englishman is a good thing. I think a strong burden of proof lies on those who recommend it.

I take the Bill for what it is, as being honestly and generally non-party, but, of course, when it is brought in by the Home Secretary it does unfortunately assume a party character. Very naturally hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Government Benches feel it their duty to stomach any convictions they may have, and at least give a Second Reading to the Bill, hoping against hope that some nice assurances will be given, or that the matter will be put right in Committee, so that they will then be able, in due course, to go home and face their disgruntled town councils and local supporters, who do not like what has been done. If only the Government could be induced not to put on the Party Whips in this case, but to leave the matter to an open vote, I should welcome it very much, because it is a very distasteful thing, for me, at any rate, to have a party issue made of what is really an issue concerning the independence that all patriotic Englishmen feel for their own district. If that cannot be done, I sincerely hope that if the Government secure a majority, and the Second Reading is carried, the Home Secretary will allow a very long interval to elapse between the Second Reading and the Committee stage.

7.28 p.m.

:It has been my misfortune to have listened this afternoon to several speeches which have contained the points which I had intended to make myself. I shall not, of course, worry the House with a repetition of what has already been said, but I wish to make one or two comments. I feel that there has been a tendency in Government circles in recent times to regard the county councils and the county boroughs as the only organs that can efficiently run local governments. I do not subscribe to that view. The county councils came into being towards the end of the last century, and the last county borough was made in this country nearly 30 years ago. Since then local government has developed considerably, and many of the municipal corporations are much more efficient and better managed than some of the other forms of local government. I would like to ask the Home Secretary whether it is possible for those municipal corporations which are large enough, and which are efficiently managed, to be brought within the provisions of Clause 11 of this Bill, in order that they may retain control of their police forces.

If that is not possible, I would like to make a special plea for the city of Rochester, which I have the honour to represent. The three districts in the Medway area—Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham—have seen the wisdom of joining together in order to become a better ordered local government unit, and are seeking from the Home Secretary the county borough status. I ask him, if he can, to see to it that the Boundary Commission gets to work in that area in order that those three districts can become a county borough before the appointed day, 1st April, 1947, and so benefit from the provisions of the Bill. This would ensure that the efficient and well run police force in Rochester is able to continue.

7.31 p.m.

:I have no particular local interest in this matter, as no part of my constituency is in fact threatened with the ravages of this Bill. I therefore view it simply on broad general principles. This Bill, as Napoleon said of God, is on the side of the big battalions; but we look in vain in it for the divine qualities of mercy and forbearance to the weak and small. If this House did not scrutinise very closely and jealously any Measure which whittles away the independence of local authorities, it would be failing in its duty, both to the people whom it represents and to the cause of justice whose custodian it is, that custodianship being all the more important because these powers were granted in wartime.

I am not here to defend small or inefficient police forces. I only wish that the recommendations of the 1932 Committee had been carried out before, in order that their existence could not be used to justify wider and more sweeping Measures. The fear now is that this Bill is giving powers far wider than are necessary for these purposes. That is the fear that exists in the hearts of local authorities and lovers of liberty generally—that this Bill is a lever to open the way to further penetration into the proper domain of local authorities. These powers are given in Clause 3, which gives to the Home Secretary the power to dictate amalgamations in the interests of efficiency, of which he is the sole judge. These powers are unqualified by any restriction either on the size of the police forces involved or on the size or population of the areas involved. Those powers are very wide. We have had undertakings that they will not be abused; but I think we are having in this Parliament too much of the Ministerial theme song, "These powers are certainly extensive but you can trust us not to abuse them." Ministers share with the other sex the right to change their minds. The only thing is that they do not call it that; they call it a change of conditions which justifies them in no longer holding to their undertakings. The only way of guarding against that is to see that the powers given in the Bill are not too wide. Undertakings and pledges come and go, unfortunately, but, in the words of the old Latin tag, litera scripta manet, what is written in the statute remains. Therefore, it would be wrong that the powers in Clause 3 should be given to the Home Secretary. I think it would be giving him powers wider than are necessary for any reason which can be advanced on behalf of the efficiency of the police forces or their administration.

It may be that the right hon. Gentleman himself does not cherish any designs upon the independence of local authorities. I hope it is so, but he cannot bind posterity or even his immediate successors by his undertakings. I do not want to make invidious comparisons, but I do recall—and no doubt the House will recall—that the vices of Nero and the irregularities of Commodus had the scope they did because of the machinery built up supposedly for good purposes by Augustus Caesar and Marcus Aurelius. [Laughter.] I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman's tea has agreed with him and that he comes back to the House fortified.

Then I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on breaking a Ministerial precedent. I conclude by saying that I hope this evening we will make a break with this bad method of incorporating in laws powers far too wide for the purposes required, and that we shall take steps towards limiting the scope and ambit of Bills to those which are administratively necessary now, and excluding those which give powers which are dangerous to liberty in the future.

7.36 p.m.

:I rise to make my first speech in this House with what to anyone on these benches is a double sense of diffidence, because I am feeling very unhappy about this Bill in relation to its treatment of the non-county borough. Perhaps I may be bold enough to say in reply to the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe) that we on this side do not need to be told by him or his friends what we ought to do. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) said that he hates policemen. A good deal has been said in the course of the Debate to the effect that the purpose of policemen is the prevention and detection of crime. We ought to realise that our police forces serve a very much wider purpose than that in their service to the community. They are servants of the community, they have the confidence of the community and their fellow citizens because of the much more positive services which they render and which go beyond the mere prevention and detection of crime. That confidence which our people have in the police forces of this country which, I think it is generally admitted, are the admiration of the whole world, has been built up because of their local character and because of their basis upon the local community. It is important that, whatever changes may have to come, we should try as much as we can to maintain that local character in police forces.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) emphasised—and it has been emphasised by other speakers—the danger which is inherent in the Bill of a national police force and a dictatorship being secured from it, although I was very glad to hear his disclaimer to the effect that those suggestions did not in any way apply to the present Government or the present Home Secretary. It was a disclaimer which compared well with some of the fantastic and absurd statements which were made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) at the time of the General Election. But, linking up the recollection of those statements with suggestions that have been made of the danger of a national centralised police force, and the possibility of dangerous thoughts being instilled into the minds of people by the connection of these two lines of thought, perhaps it would be as well if some Members on this side of the House did express their strong disapproval of the Bill. My righthon. Friend the Home Secretary, as I understood him, said that this Bill was purely administrative. Frankly, I do not understand that, because I think there are vital principles at stake. It is vital that we should have efficiency and economy in our police forces but it is of much greater importance that we should maintain that tradition of democracy and our democratic way of life, which we have done so much to preserve, and to which we pay so much lip-service occasionally. It is important also that we should maintain its local character and should strive to maintain the functions and powers of local authoriites, consistent with a proper standard of efficiency and economy.

Unfortunately, in many directions there are very widespread tendencies to detract from the powers and functions of local authorities and to destroy their importance and their significance in the minds of local electors and citizens, whom we are ever exhorting to take a wider and deeper interest in their local affairs. How many of us who have taken part in local council elections have not deplored from time to time the apathy which exists in regard to them? How can we expect our citizens to take a real, practical interest in their local councils and the work of their local police forces if the process of taking away the importance and significance of local council work and functions is continued in this way?

I have the honour to represent a non-county borough, but there are non-county boroughs and non-county boroughs. My town of St. Albans which, under its old Roman name of Verulamium was the capital city of this land, is very proud of its ancient history. It has a very strong civic consciousness and local tradition. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) was speaking of local feeling, and I think there is something in it, provided you have a proper standard of efficiency. Ours is a non-county borough of well over 30,000 people. We have a separate police force which has always been complimented by His Majesty's inspectors from the Home Office, and has never had serious criticism made about it. I speak not only as the representative of the town but as having served for some time on the watch committee. Having been mayor of the city for a couple of years, I have served as chairman of the watch committee. As a local magistrate, I have observed the work of the police force and, on the county bench, the work of the neighbouring county police. I have also seen the work of the Metropolitan Police, whose area is contiguous with our area, and whose work we are able to observe. I say without a shadow of doubt that our borough police force is more efficient than is the county police force which surrounds them.

I feel that this is an instance, and there may be others, to show that the wholesale sweeping away of non-county borough police forces in the way proposed will not serve to increase efficiency but will rather serve to diminish it and take away from local interest and from that confidence between public and police which lies at the very root of ideal police admini- station. Inevitably it will reduce the informal police knowledge of the antecedents of residents which local police are bound to have, and it will prevent that day-to-day democratic watchfulness which makes for keenness and efficiency in the discharge by the police of their important functions. Above all, it will foster the uneasiness which is already widespread among non-county boroughs at the permanent withdrawal of certain functions by the central Government which the non-county boroughs willingly agreed to for war purposes and during the war, but which will permanently endanger the value and significance of local government and local democracy.

I do not deny, and I am sure that no-one would think of denying, that there may be some non-county boroughs with separate police forces which cannot be justified as separate police forces because of their smallness and their inefficiency, perhaps, or at any rate, because of the smallness of their populations and of their establishment. I cannot understand why the findings of the Select Committee of 1932, which set a limit of 30,000 population, cannot be accepted. Of 47 non-county boroughs with police forces, at least 27, by 1931 figures, and I should think probably more by up-to-date figures, had over 30,000. I would ask the Home Secretary if it would not be possible, at any rate, to consider giving larger non-county boroughs the same opportunity as is given to county boroughs in the subsequent Clauses of the Bill to form a voluntary scheme, and if the local circumstances seem to the Home Office to warrant it, the right hon. Gentleman should have power to step in and confirm the scheme, providing that, where it is possible in the circumstances of the particular district, the non-countyboroughs of over 30,000 population should be able to retain their police forces, where these are efficient and there is a long standing local tradition and civic pride, which are worth preserving. I cannot understand why this piecemeal change in local administration is being forced in advance of the wider changes of local government reform which must come when the Boundary Commission gets to work.

There is just one final point, a smaller point but a rather important one from the point of view of the policemen them- selves. When disciplinary action is necessary against a member of a police force which operates under a watch committee the police constable has the right of appeal to the watch committee. In my experience, that right is often exercised and the policeman is able to come and state his case to the watch committee and bring his witnesses. Under the Standing Joint Committee procedure of the county forces, there is no such right of appeal and the chief constable of the county is a dictator. There is no appeal to the Standing Joint Committee. I see the Under-Secretary of State saying that I am mistaken, but at any rate, my information is that in the Standing Joint Committee procedure the chief constable has far greater powers and is much more independent. I ask that some consideration be given to the suggestion that the larger non-county boroughs above 30,000 population be enabled, if they wish to do so, and if it is consistent with efficiency, to maintain their separate local police forces.

7.50 p.m.

:To me falls, with very great pleasure, the duty of congratulating the hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Dumpleton) on his very thoughtful and understanding maiden speech. He has shown great knowledge of local and police matters, and I am sure we shall all hope to have the opportunity of hearing him often in the future.

Tonight I support the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) and his Amendment. I am very suspicious of this Bill. I think it could be made a good Bill, but as at present drafted it is a very dangerous Bill and would allow the formation of a Gestapo police in this country, with a "super-copper." I know the Home Secretary has no intention of that happening while he is Home Secretary, but I have been in this House for a number of years. Home Secretaries come and Home Secretaries go, and each has a habit, when following another one, of saying, "Oh, well, it is not in the Bill; we cannot help what assurance was given on the Floor of the House." I maintain that it is absolutely essential that a ceiling should be put on this Bill to stop amalgamations being made too large. I know the difficulty; it is very difficult to draft an Amendment, owing to the great difference in size of police forces. London, for instance, has some 20,000 men. I am quite certain, however, that it is not beyond the capacity of the Home Secretary's advisers to produce an Amendment that will meet the points we are asking for. If an assurance cannot be given by the Home Secretary or the Under-Secretary that an endeavour will be made between now and Committee stage to find some form of Amendment which they will introduce to put a ceiling on the Bill, I and a number of my hon. Friends intend to divide the House against it.

An hon. Member has said that during the Election we discussed many things. One of the things which was not discussed was the question of a police Bill, nor was it mentioned in the Gracious Speech. I want to know, why all the hurry? Why are we introducing this Bill at the present time? Back benchers have lost their rights, Private Members' time has been taken by the Government, yet here is a Bill which in its present form can only be described as a third-rate Measure. It can however be improved on Committee stage. I was surprised that the Home Secretary did not tell us what has been the effect of the amalgamations in different areas under the 1942 Regulation. I understand they have been highly successful. I have heard it said that the reason why the amalgamation has been so successful in Sussex is that there is now a very good chief constable. I quite agree. As soon as you get a bigger area you can get a far better type of chief constable, and one of the difficulties at the present time with these very small police forces is just that. Perhaps in the small force it is the chief constable's first job, and when there is a vacancy in a bigger force he moves on. The result is that the places with small forces do not have the benefit of such good chief constables.

During the war I was for five years with the Provost branch of the Royal Air Force, and I know the disadvantages of having two small police forces, one county and one borough, in the same area. The Americans could never understand the difference, and many people in this country cannot understand which force is the one to go to. In the smaller forces there is not the opportunity for such highly efficient training nor for promotions, nor is the discipline so good, and they have not got the necessary specialised branches which the larger Forces can have. I regret that in the Bill there is no mention of better police buildings when the Forces are amalgamated. Some of the police stations of this country are appalling—out of date, antiquated and dark, and ought to be scrapped. We ought to take steps in this Bill to ensure that we shall get modern police buildings for the bigger forces.

The principal object of having police is the prevention of crime, and I am certain that by getting rid of the indeterminate boundaries that now exist as between the county and borough forces the success of the police in the detection of offenders will be increased. Time is often wasted because the wrong police force is rung up when a crime has been committed. The police come along and say, "Our duty stops at the middle of the road, the other side has nothing to do with us." Not only that; I have known a case during this war when the ambulance was sent for to a road accident. The accident was 100 yards on the other side of the county boundary, so the ambulance would not take the case and they had to get the other one from the other county town. We know these things do happen and as far as the amalgamation of some of the smaller forces is concerned, I welcome the Measure.

I regret that the Home Secretary is not going to take powers to have airborne police. In his speech he stated that it was essential that the police forces should always keep ahead of the criminals. On the advent of the motor car the police had to have faster motor cars than any others on the road to catch those who were breaking the law. Now we have the aeroplane, and to my mind nothing is more certain than that eventually Scotland Yard will have to be equipped with aircraft to compete with the international criminal who uses the aeroplane. Today I asked the Home Secretary to say whether he would consider having flying police attached to Scotland Yard as a counter measure against smuggling. He replied that such measures were taken on the ground, and as at present advised he did not think there would be any justification for any innovation such as I had suggested. The innovation was that we should have flying police. If that is the advice of the advisers in his Department, they should be sacked. Let them keep up with the times.

There is a great deal of smuggling going on at the present time; let me give an instance. The other day a pilot went to Denmark. He saw a lady coming out of a farm with two chickens. He asked what she wanted for them and she said, "ten cigarettes." He gave her the 10 cigarettes and took the two chickens. When he got to Belgium he got rid of the two chickens for 1,000 cigarettes. He then in the course of his duties went back to Denmark, and with the 1,000 cigarettes he got a radiogram. He flew back with the radiogram to Belgium and exchanged it for three cases of champagne. He came back to this country and he and his friends having drunk six bottles, sold the remaining 2½ dozen bottles at some £4 each. That is happening every day. Currency is being smuggled in great quantities into this country and out of it. Yet the police cannot use aeroplanes to compete with these criminals. The other day the French Sûreté police came over from Paris to take statements and make investigations at certain aerodromes in this country. No planes were available for them, there was no way for civilian Frenchmen to fly in R.A.F. Service planes, so they had to motor to the North of England all through the night. The police have to be up to date, and I urge the Home Secretary to think this out and see whether he does not think it is an urgent necessity to include a Clause in this Bill to enable flying police to be attached to Scotland Yard.

I regret that steps are not taken in this Bill to improve the lot of police personnel. There are several grievances in the police forces which could be solved by improvements in this Bill. In the first place, there is the question of the widow of a police constable who is killed while on duty. If there is internal strife or disorder and a police constable is killed, the widow is very badly treated financially; she gets a pension of £30 a year, and her husband's superannuation money, which he has been paying in while in the service, is completely lost to her. It is a great injustice and it causes great ill-feeling in the police forces. Another grievance is that the police have to pay Income Tax on rent aid. When the police are not able to be given a house, they are given an allow- ance of money in lieu of it, and they have to pay Income Tax on that allowance. That is a great hardship. We have not been told by the Home Secretary whether the passing of this Bill will improve promotion prospects. There are hundreds of police constables who have passed their examination for sergeant's stripes, and yet they see no hope of promotion. Can the Home Secretary give some encouragement that that position will be improved?

Another thing that I think ought to be included in the Bill is power to bring back all the police from the Services. There are still 8,000 police in the Armed Forces and those that remain in the police forces are not sufficient to deal with the crime that is taking place. House-breaking, larceny, stealing from working-class houses, have trebled. I can assure hon. Members opposite that there are many children in such houses who are frightened to go to bed at night because they fear that robbers may come during the night. All this housebreaking could be stopped if there were sufficient police, and one of the ways of getting sufficient police would be the return of the 8,000 police in the Forces. Lastly, I regret there is no provision in the Bill for reinstating in civil employment those police who volunteered for the Fighting Services, who have been wounded and who, because they are not 100 per cent. fit, cannot apply for reinstatement in the police forces. I think it is very hard and unfair on them. Most of them have magnificent war records. Many of them were fighter and bomber pilots. One has only to walk round the streets of London to see them with their medals of gallantry. I maintain that the police forces ought to set a good example to private employers in this matter. Finally, I hope that when the Under-Secretary replies he will be able to give us an assurance that it is intended to put a limit to the size of police forces to be amalgamated in the future.

8.3 p.m.

I am not able to claim the indulgence of the House for a maiden speech, because I have spoken in the House on many occasions in an earlier Parliament, but one of the happiest recollections I have is the great tolerance shown to a Member speaking for the first time, and I hope hon. Members will grant me some measure of indulgence on addressing it for the first time after a long absence, especially as I speak about this Bill under certain difficulties.

I have not heard from any supporter of the Bill the reasons why this Measure has been brought forward urgently at this time. I have heard a good deal that has helped to allay some of my apprehensions about the Bill, but I have not heard any real case for the introduction of the Bill at this moment. Many of us feel that there were more important things that might have been dealt with but for the question of time. Here is a Measure which nobody seems to want very much, which has suddenly appeared, and which a good many of us are not too happy about. I hope that before the Debate concludes we shall be given some real reason why the Bill has been brought forward now.

The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary mentioned the non-county borough which I represent—Hyde. We cannot look upon the passing of our police force without great regret. It has been an efficient force. I am not satisfied with the proposals, and I ask my right hon. Friend to look into this matter before the reply is made tonight. Hyde is a long way from the county city of Chester. It is very remote from Chester in more senses than one; remote not only by distance, but remote from the whole environment and nature of the place. Hyde is within the Lancashire industrial belt. I do not know how it can be contended that there can be any very great advantage to us if we have to be attached for administrative purposes to the city of Chester. With regard to the county authorities, things may have changed a little, but it is not so long ago when the chief constables of counties were anything but policemen. In the non-county boroughs there were chief constables who were policemen, often men who had graduated through at any rate some ranks of the police service, and they were competent; but that was certainly not the case with the county forces. Men were appointed there because they had retired from the Army with high honours and small pensions, or because they were fox-hunting masters, or because they were the brothers of the chairmen of Quarter Sessions. Again and again there were appointments of that sort, within recent years, that were thoroughly unsatisfactory.

The result is that the prospect of amalgamation with some of these more reactionary authorities fills a great many people with dismay. In many of these counties there is practically no democratic representation upon the county authority. The industrial districts are at one end, and they may have a small representation, but the large rural areas still send to the county authorities thoroughly reactionary representatives, with the result that the control of our police will be taken from democratically and progressively-minded people at this particular time and, unless there are great changes in some of the county areas, will be put into reactionary hands. I ask my right hon. Friend to think about that. I was not too worried about Clause 3 until I realised that on both sides there was the same fear. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are frightened of some Home Secretary from this side becoming a dictator, and we on this side; certainly with much more cause, are apprehensive of what might happen from the other side, but when both sides are afraid of it, there must be something rather wrong with the Clause. Therefore, I hope that provision will be looked into more carefully on the Committee stage.

The Home Secretary began his speech with a very worthy tribute to the police forces of this country, and I am glad that this Debate has taken place if for no other reason than that it has enabled that tribute to be paid, and paid very gracefully, from this House. The police forces have done magnificent work in this country, not least during the difficult days of the war, amid the perils and trials of the black-out. Assisted by a large number of auxiliary members of the force they have not only preserved law and order, but have been a very great help in time of danger. It is a magnificent force and I am glad to pay tribute to it, for I have had considerable connection with it in a very pleasant way. I am glad, too, to think there has been a steady evolution of the policeman. Not so long ago he was the bogy man held up to naughty children. No child would be afraid today at the mention of the name of a policeman. The policeman is a fine friend and the children like him. It is a very great tribute to the police force that they have in a comparatively short time been able to endear themselves to the children. They are a great body of people doing splendid work, very much of it unspectacular. It is only now and then that the policeman can arrest a thorough villain, or go into the court of a judge of assize, or clear the road for a Member of Parliament. They have a very unspectacular job to do all the time, but they do it well, and the country has cause to be grateful to them. I hope, therefore, that every interest of every member of the force will be looked at and will be safeguarded through the passage of this Bill.

There has been a good deal of discussion on the distinction between the prevention of crime and the detection of crime and which was the main function of the police. I have no doubt, as I think the right hon. Gentleman's advisers at the Home Office would agree, that detection is the greatest preventative. It is not so much the punishment, but the certainty of being found out that prevents people from committing crime. It will reduce crime when we make detection more certain, and it will do more than penalties, whether they are stepped up or stepped down. As the Home Secretary rightly said, there is a new technique in crime. There is another kind of person working it. The burglar today is not the old Bill Sykes, with bag and jemmy. It is, I regret to say, the university graduate who is very successful from the criminal point of view; and the whole business is carefully and brilliantly planned. Those are the type of people with whom the police have to deal. It is, therefore, essential that we should have the best police force and that means first-class training and first-class equipment, and if this Bill is going to make for more efficiency in the police force, it would be a mistake to oppose it.

I am sorry that there has not been longer notice of this matter. Nobody will suggest that the Home Secretary has been at all discourteous. He and discourtesy are inevitably far apart. It is rare that one finds common sense and great courtesy allied. But the interval between the publication of the Bill and Second Reading and the municipal pandemonium is not quite long enough. The right hon. Gentleman said that he would be pleased to meet a deputation. It may be too late. If the Bill passes Second Reading, as no doubt it will, it means the execution of some police forces, and the right hon. Gentleman could not exercise the discretion, which in some cases he will be able to do.

I am sorry that we shall lose many of the county borough police forces. There are advantages in local areas and in civic tradition. I do not want this to be lost altogether. I do not want them to be swallowed up in Whitehall. I want to preserve as far as we can some of this local spirit. The police, when they are local in the full sense, can be of very great assistance. I have been in some difficulty about this Bill, but it is not so difficult now that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Henley (Sir G. Fox), who made one of the most effective speeches for the Bill, says that he will vote against it. I have not been too happy about the Bill, but I think that I can vote for it and hope for the best in the Committee stage.

8.15 p.m.

:I apologise for taking up a few minutes of the time of the House this evening, because during the time that I have served as Member of this House I have taken up less time than a very great number of hon. Members. It is my very pleasant lot to congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Lang), not on a maiden speech, but on his return to this House, and I am sure that hon. Members will all wish to hear from him in the near future. I sit for a constituency which is affected very considerably by this Bill. The City of Salisbury is a non-county borough. I myself live in the county, for which I also sit, which will take in, and which at the present time does take in, the police force of Salisbury under the Defence Regulations. I have listened very carefully all through this Debate, and since 1942, when this was first considered, I have taken a considerable interest in the matter because it affected the constituency for which I sit and also because as a new Member at that time the matter was handled by one, the senior, of the "Quins" of my name in the House of Commons. I was the junior. I am still the junior, but this time only of triplets—a very unfortunate affair. As everyone knows, there was an elevation to another place only last week. I feel, having listened very carefully to the Debate, that I agree most particularly with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude). There is no doubt that the amalgamation in 1942 did help to make the military machine, particularly that of the Americans, run smoothly. No doubt it is running smoothly at the present time.

Taking as impartial a view as is possible we are not satisfied—I am not satisfied and a lot of hon. Members on both sides of the House are not satisfied—with the powers under Clause 3. I appreciate what the Home Secretary has said in the undertaking he has given, but he is only human. He may well be a good Home Secretary, as I am sure he will be, and possibly there may be a statue to him down one of the passages, but, unfortunately, he is not immortal. His pledge cannot hold good for his successors. No doubt there is a great measure of agreement among Members of all parties, and I have listened very closely to all of them. It would indeed be disastrous if there was one great man at the head a national police force with dictatorial powers. It is something to which we would all object. I very much hope that when this Debate is wound up by the right hon. Gentleman who is going to finish for the Government side as their spokesman, we shall have fresh assurances that this will not be the case. As I see it, the Bill may be a very great danger to the people of this country in future years. The right hon. Gentleman gave an assurance that he had contacted the municipal and borough authorities earlier in the day and had explained the Bill, and I appreciate what he has said. There is, however, no doubt very considerable feeling amongst those concerned that the matter has been rushed through at a time just before the elections, and that the actual discussion on the Bill is taking place on municipal polling day. We in this country have a first-class police force which is second to none, and it is rational that we should all be proud of our local police forces, no matter in what part of the country they may be, and so I think it is a pity that we should have had this Bill before us on this particular day, of all days. I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak, and I will only add that I hope we shall have renewed assurances from the Home Secretary or his spokesman before the Debate concludes this evening.

8.21 p.m.

I have sat here since the Bill was introduced by my right hon. Friend this afternoon, and I do not think I have missed many speeches. Of all the hon. Members whom I have heard speaking on this Bill, I only remember one commending it without any qualification, and that was the right hon. Gentleman who was himself introducing it. I am profoundly dissatisfied with it. There are still some mysteries associated with it which I, as a Member of the same party as the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it, am unable to solve. The right hon. Gentleman did make some effort to explain why the municipal corporations, who are so intensely interested in this Bill, are so dissatisfied with the lack of approach to them, or the lack of understanding, or even the absence of those conversations which generally take place but which have not taken place in this instance. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] From the fact that I received an answer from the right hon. Gentleman to the interjection which I made this afternoon, the right hon. Gentleman must not asume that he satisfied me. Indeed, I doubt whether he satisfied any other hon. Member, because the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, whom I must hold responsible for the great suspicion which has been associated with this Bill from its inception, was this. He said, "I did meet representatives of the police committees of the municipal corporations on 1st October, and I told them of what was going to appear in this Bill." But, as we were told by the right hon. Gentleman, whatever transpired between these representatives and himself was not to be made public, for some mysterious reason, and they were, to all intents and purposes, sworn to secrecy.

:Surely my hon. Friend must be aware that every Minister in charge of a Department, in the course of the preparation of his Bill, does have these conversations with the duly accredited representatives of the great associations, and that he always has to make it clear to them that the first persons to know publicly of the contents of a Bill must be the Parliament of this country. I have been on any number of deputations myself, as a member of a local authority, and I have always had that stipulation.

:We all understand that, but the right hon. Gentleman was trying to explain two things to the House at the same time. One was that the strong and unanimous protests made by the municipal corporations against the rushing of this Bill at this stage were unjusifiable because he had taken them into his confidence. It was a peculiar kind of confidence when it was understood that they were not to tell their association what were to be the contents of this Bill, which was published no less than 10 days or two weeks ago. My right hon. Friend knew very well that] the local authorities, and particularly the county boroughs, would be very much preoccupied with the elections today, and he must have known that he was taking a grossly unfair advantage of them by introducing this Bill—a Bill concerning which there have been no free and open discussion between himself and the representatives of the local authorities.

Another mystery which I cannot understand is, Why the rush? What earthly justification is there for the right hon. Gentleman to come to this House and take up the time of its Members on a matter of this kind? There is no justification for it at all. Further, when we show any impatience about the delay in introducing the Measures that we are supposed to put through this Parliament, and when we ask why they are not introduced, we are told, over and over again, that there is a scarcity or famine of competent draftsmen to prepare Bills to embody the necessary legislation on the major issues on which the General Election was fought and won by the party to which I am still proud to belong. But my right hon. Friend finds it possible, apparently, in spite of the scarcity of draftsmen, to introduce a Bill as complicated as this is. I do not think he is really the father of this utterly disliked and most unwanted child. Every sentence in this Bill smells of the years that have gone by. He has dug up this Bill from somewhere in the archives of the Home Office, but why—I am serious about this—he affronted this House, and particularly his own party, by taking up our time and compelling us to apply our minds to this Bill I do not know, in view of the expectations aroused, after the pledges we made to our people. For a Bill of this kind there is not a shred of justification.

On a point of Order. I should like to make my individual position plain. I do not regard myself as being affronted by the introduction of this Bill.

:Possibly I am independent. I have not been overwhelmed, nor impressed, nor overawed by the Metropolitan complex that seems to have damned this Bill. I am distressed about the liberties which the right hon. Gentleman has taken with this House. This is not the moment to introduce a Bill of this kind. There is no call for it at all, and I am sorry that he has put his name to it. I regret very much Clause 3, for which there is no justification at all. In regard to most of these small police forces, neither the right hon. Gentleman nor my hon. Friend who will reply to this Debate can produce the least bit of tangible evidence, or anything that can be examined, to prove that they are less efficient than the police forces in much bigger and more populous districts.

The town of Neath was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. That has one of the small police forces which are to be wantonly sacrificed by him. I happen to know the little town in detail. There is not a better, more cleanly or decently conducted little town in these islands. There is nothing that can be said against the conduct of the people. After all, what do we want? Is it a vast, organised, soulless machine or a high standard of conduct amongst the people of this country? They have it in that little town, with its own small police force, but, for some reason, my right hon. Friend will imply, "Your conduct is not good enough to suit me; I must get for you a far more efficient police force, and that I shall have by merging yours with a larger one." I could say a great deal about the police forces in these areas, but all I can do is to make my personal feelings clear on this matter.

:I hope I have, but it rests with the right hon. Gentleman to dissipate, if he can, the suspicions of a Member of the same party as himself, and one who was a Member of that party many years before he associated with it.

8.32 p.m.

I am sorry to appear to be curtailing this very interesting Debate. If it had not been time for me to rise, we might have had a lot more speeches on the lines of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] You cannot tell. I think the Home Secretary will acquit me of any discourtesy in not being here to listen to his opening speech.

:No, I was not doing that. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that my duties on the Public Accounts Committee are some of the most arduous which hon. Members of this House can undertake. I agree with the last speech to this extent, that I do not think this is a very appropriate time to bring in this Bill. I can only imagine that the reason for its urgency at this time is that we are faced with the dilemma of unscrambling certain omelettes made by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor at the Home Office, the Lord President of the Council, under the Defence Regulations. It has been said that there has been inadequate consultation with the local authorities in regard to this matter. I am assured that there has been some misunderstanding in that regard, and that the right hon. Gentleman has, in fact, taken the local authorities into consultation in accordance with custom and with precedent, so far as he felt he could do so, without infringing the prerogative of the House of Commons. I accept that from the right hon. Gentleman, knowing his reputation as a good House of Commons man.

In this matter of police amalgamation I am placed in somewhat of a dilemma by this Bill. I served for five and half years as Under-Secretary at the Home Office under three different Home Secretaries. In this matter of police amalgamation there is a conflict between the claims of civic pride and local tradition on the one hand, and the claims of efficiency upon the other. Those two claims are not very easily reconcilable, but, with such experience as I have had, I should not have the slightest hesitation—if the question before the House were simply: Is some measure of amalgamation of police forces desirable?—in answering that questionin the affirmative. I have not the slightest doubt that these very small police forces are nothing like as efficient as they ought to be, and that they do not give the men who serve in them the same opportunity of promotion as do the larger forces. I was particularly glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor), who is opposed to this Measure, pay a tribute to the chief constable of the amalgamated area in Sussex, who was appointed under the Defence Regulations procedure. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council took, I know, very great trouble over the choice of a chief constable for that area, and I was very delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman, who is opposed to police amalgamation in general, say that in that case the scheme had achieved a very large measure of success.

It is perfectly clear that from the point of view of efficiency alone there must be an optimum size for a unit of police administration. At the same time, if you are to pay any regard to the claims of civic pride and local tradition, you cannot in every case achieve that optimum size, and it would be perfectly easy to point out, on the figures of population and on the size of the police forces concerned, grave anomalies in the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman has laid before the House. At the same time, those anomalies are unavoidable if you are to give due weight to these considerations of local pride and, therefore, I should, myself, dissent entirely from the views both of the Desborough Committee and of the Select Committee of 1932 that you should fix some arbitrary figure of population, or the size of the police force, and amalgamate all forces which automatically fall below a given datum line.

Some reference has been made in the Debate to the two quite different disciplinary systems which are to be found in borough and in county police forces. I do not think that that issue really arises on this Bill today because, even if the right hon. Gentleman's proposals are carried through, he will still be faced with the fact that there are two completely different systems of discipline in the county and county borough forces. Therefore, I do not think that that issue is of great importance today. At the same time, I share the views of the Lord President of the Council that the system in the counties is a better system than that of watch committees in the boroughs.

What is the right hon. Gentleman's proposal? It is, first, automatically to sweep away all the non-county borough forces; but the real sting of the Bill is in Clause 3. I want the House to attend carefully to the proposals in Clause 3, because I do not think that is the right way to proceed in this desirable measure of police force amalgamation. The proposals under Clause 3 are that after the non-county borough forces have been swept away, the initiative for further amalgamations will rest with the Secretary of State.

:Clause 2, of course, provides for voluntary amalgamations which, as far as I am aware, can be achieved under the present system.

:The only way in which the union of two forces can be achieved at the moment is for a borough to be swallowed by a county. Two counties cannot merge, two county boroughs cannot merge.

I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend, but the sting of the Bill is in Clause 3, under which amalgamation schemes are, and undoubtedly will be, promoted by the right hon. Gentleman. What happens then? The Secretary of State has made up his mind that an amalgamation in a certain area is desirable, and he appoints an independent person to hold the inquiry. During my tenure of office at the Home Office, we appointed innumerable independent persons to hold inquiries for an enormous variety of purposes. But this is rather a special case, because the person appointed to hold the inquiry knows what are the wishes and desires of the Home Secretary before the inquiry is initiated. This is quite a different case from appointing somebody to hold an inquiry into a scandal connected with the administration of an approved school, or ordinary members of a tribunal to examine aliens, or to revoke certificates of naturalisation, or anything of that kind. In this case, the inquiring officer knows already what is in the Secretary of State's mind, and there surely must be some temptation to the inquiring officer to find in accordance with what he knows to be the Secretary of State's wishes.

What happens after that? The right hon. Gentleman receives the report—there is no provision in the Clause that the report shall be laid before the House of Commons and the amalgamation scheme goes through on the ipse dixit of the right hon. Gentleman, unless objection is taken in the House, when only the negative Resolution procedure is to be followed. I should have thought that, at least, Clause 3 might have provided for an affirmative Resolution, coupled with the laying of the report of the inquiring officer before the House. My own view is that the right hon. Gentleman is not proceeding in the right way at all under Clause 3. He will find my views, expressed many months ago, in the files of the Home Office. They were, that the proper way to achieve reform of the police areas is to constitute some body of independent persons, like the Boundary Commissioners for the review of local government areas, or the Boundary Commissioners for Parliamentary constituencies, and ask them to make a comprehensive review of police force areas. In that way you would have a body who would gain experience as they went along who would form definite ideas as to the proper size of these units, and who would be treated by everybody concerned as an independent and impartial body. I would rather have had, in place of Clause 3 of the Bill, which is a very arbitrary procedure instigated by the right hon. Gentleman himself, a body set up by the Secretary of State to make a comprehensive review.

I have only a few more remarks to offer to the House because I know that the attitude of most hon. Members will depend upon the reply to be given by the Under-Secretary of State. My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) asked for certain assurances. He asked for assurances that what the Home Secretary stated to be his intention—that there should not beas an ultimate objective, either a national force or a regional force, but that the build-up should be on the basis of county forces and large county borough forces—should be defined in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has stated perfectly clearly what his objectives are. They are that the police forces shall not, broadly speaking, go—as regards amalgamation—beyond county and large county borough forces.

Our view, on this side of the House, is that those assurances are all very well as far as they go, but that we ought, if possible, to see the ultimate objective defined in the Bill. Many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House will undoubtedly go into the Lobby against this Bill unless the hon. Gentleman who is going to reply can give us an indication that the Government will do their utmost to frame an amendment which will define the ultimate objective of the Bill. If that were done, I think the Second Reading might be carried without a Division. My hon. Friends on this side of the House are, of course, perfectly free to vote on a matter of this kind as they please, but I should advise my hon. Friends that, if it is made perfectly clear that Amendments will be inserted in the Bill, defining the ultimate objectives in the terms used by the right hon. Gentleman in opening the Debate, then I should advise my hon. Friends on this side to refrain from a Division. Everything depends, as I say, upon the hon. Gentleman who is about to reply. Many of his hon. Friends behind him are just as anxious as some of my hon. Friends on this side are in this matter, and I trust, in view of the very friendly nature of the Debate we have had, that he will endeavour to meet, what I believe to be, the general wishes of the House in this matter.

My right hon. Friend, I know, will be very pleased with the nature of the Debate today because, as the right hon. Gentleman who has just preceded me has said, such criticisms as there have been, have not come from one side of the House alone, and, alternatively, the Bill has been welcomed from both sides of the House. By reason of the friendly and affirmative nature of the Debate, my right hon. Friend has had his attention focused on one or two of the important matters which have caused controversy and some little concern during the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) very rightly gave the reason why it was necessary now to get this Bill under way—becauseof the wartime amalgamations which will come to an end. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, there is no moral reason at all to maintain these schemes in existence. They were purely wartime provisions, and it would be morally wrong, although we could continue them legally, to continue such regulations when the causes which made these regulations necessary no longer apply. For that reason, it is necessary to look into this matter now so that we can formulate the Bill and get it under way.

Great play has been made tonight about this Bill being introduced on 1st November. Why should it not be introduced on 1st November? Is there something about 1st November—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is All Saints' Day"]—in a House of Commons which was elected in July? Of course the 1st November is the day of the local elections and we, as Members, at any rate, would be careful to discharge our obligations, irrespective of whether it was 1st November or 1st December.

If it is suggested that the time has been too short for consideration to be given to the Bill by the local authorities since the conference was held between my right hon. Friend and them, then, of course, other considerations apply. But it is quite erroneous to suggest, as has been suggested, that an opportunity has not been provided for the local authorities to be informed as to what this Bill contains. I, myself, was present at the conference, when the Home Secretary made clear what the Bill contained, and if the local authorities had thought that it contained something vitally objectionable, there is no reason why representations could not have been received well before today or last night in particular, when the House was flooded with a large number of telegrams.

Our obligation was discharged when we met the representative bodies. If those bodies failed to discharge their obligation to their constituent bodies, then that is a matter for which my right hon. Friend cannot very well be blamed.

What does it matter, if they knew the principles which were to be embodied in the Bill?

:I want to get this right. Was this information given to the Association of Municipal Corporations secretly, or were they allowed to inform their constituent bodies?

The Bill was printed, I think, on 18th October. On the assumption that they felt they had obligations not to divulge what took place at the meeting—

:Every conference of that character is confidential in the sense that it is not to be broadcast. But the Bill was published on 18th October, and there would have been plenty of time, if it had contained something objectionable, for the Home Secretary to have been informed.

:Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a meeting in London yesterday of the police authorities affected passed a resolution urging that consideration of this Bill be postponed?

That may be true. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is true."] The hon. and learned Gentleman was present when my right hon. Friend was making his speech, and when he made it clear that he was prepared to meet local authorities again before the Committee stage of the Bill. My right hon. Friend made that perfectly clear and if adjustments are necessary I have not the slightest doubt that he will make them, or make concessions to the local authorities when he has the opportunity of seeing them. There cannot be much to complain about if, before the Committee stage, a good opportunity will be given to the local authorities to make such representations as they desire to the Home Secretary.

But the hon. Gentleman is making an important statement. He is saying, I understand, that if the House gives a Second Reading to this Bill any representations made by the Associations which have not been properly consulted, representations of substance, will be given effect to on the Committee stage.

The Under-Secretary must be allowed to make his speech.

:I was glad to hear the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds, who said he recognised the necessity for amalgamation. The point is, where the line must be drawn, and the method. I have listened to all the speeches which have been made tonight, and in the main the opposition has emphasised Clause 3 because it invests my right hon. Friend with a power which, it is suggested, could be exercised in a most arbitrary manner. On my reading of the Clause, it seems a little exaggerated to say that the Minister could exercise a power which was almost unrestrained, for the simple reason that if he exercises the power contained in this Clause, and it is not agreed with the police authorities, he must cause a local inquiry to be held by a person appointed by him. It is clear, according to the Bill, that that person must not be an officer of the Home Office. He must be an independent person. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) said, and it was repeated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds, that the person who would conduct the inquiry would be to some extent influenced by the fact that he would know the intentions of the Home Secretary. Of course he would know. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter said he was sent to Huddersfield himself to conduct an inquiry. If the local inquiry were to be held in Huddersfield, and the hon. and learned Member were the person selected to conduct that inquiry, what ever view was held by the Home Secretary, it would not influence his mind on the evidence which he would hear at that inquiry. I am satisfied that it is belittling the capacity of members of the legal profession and of the Bar to suggest that they would be influenced by the views held by the Home Secretary. It is erroneous to suggest that the Home Secretary can in any way exercise a power which is arbitrary, because when the inquiry has been held the Regulation must be laid on the Table of the House for 40 days.

:If the House refuse to accept the Order made by the Home Secretary, they have as much power to reject it as they have when voting against the Bill.

:That brings me to a point which the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) raised, whether the evidence upon which the findings of the inquiry were made would be available. My right hon. Friend authorises me to say that that matter will be looked into between now and the Committee stage, because there may be substance in the complaint that the evidence would not disclose itself in the form in which an ordinary Order would be made. There is a point in the hon. Member's contention which will probably justify consideration being given to the proposal. There is only one other point to which I would like to draw the attention of the House. That is the question of a national police force. I want to say at once that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is opposed to the idea of a national police force. [HON. MEMBERS: "He will not be there."] He will be here for probably 10 or 20 years. The victory of the Labour Party this year was not a temporary one. This is but a first instalment of a long succession. We are looking forward to my right hon. Friend holding this office for a considerable time.

What is the evidence with regard to bringing about, or taking steps, or promoting, a national police force? If I read the Bill aright, it provides for amalgamations between counties and county boroughs. There is no direction from the Home Office and no administration from the Home Office. Amalgamations must be between county and county borough or two counties or two county boroughs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or four or five."] It is no use raising a question and then giggling about it. If you want to know something about a national police force, be decent enough to listen to the answer. If you get amalgamation of county boroughs and county councils, obviously they must come under the control of some local authority. Amalgamation does not transfer control to the Home Office. I would suggest to hon. Members that it is less likely that there would bean inclination to gravitate to the idea of a national police force, ii you maintain an efficient police force in the country. There would be no incentive whatsoever to have a national police force if in the country itself, by virtue of amalgamation, you can maintain a police force in efficiency.

It has been said that there is no particular reason advanced for this Bill being promoted. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad that I state the proposition with such accuracy. I want to say quite clearly that we cannot have an efficient police force in 1945 with the small units which are in existence today. The hon. and gallant Member for Henley (Sir G. Fox) got up this afternoon and emphasised why he would oppose this Bill. In the same speech, he enlarged on the necessity of so modernising the police forces of this country that they could have aeroplanes and landing fields, and all the modern equipment, for police forces which consist of 20, 30 or 40 policemen.

:I was saying that with the advent of the motor car, it became necessary for the police forces to have higher-powered motor cars than anyone else on the road, so that they could catch the criminal on the road. So it will be in the air. Scotland Yard must be able to tackle the criminal who uses an aeroplane.

:Can there be a better example of requiring to bring the police force up to date? You cannot bring the police forces up to date if they consist of a very small number of constables. It is impossible to do that with small units in operation. It was suggested to me that I should say whether the constabulary of Hove was inefficient. Of course I cannot say that the constabulary of Hove was inefficient, for the simple reason that it would be impossible to say that any force was inefficient. This Bill seeks to establish, and to set into operation, a large unit of organisation for the purposes of making it practicable to adopt some of the more modern methods. The boundaries as drawn have been in operation many years and at that time there were no cars, no wireless, no air service, no finger prints—

On a point of Order. The hon. Gentleman has referred to a speech. Is it not usual for an hon. Member to give way in such circumstances?

I do not think I have been ungenerous in giving way to interruptions, but I wished to sit down at exactly

Division No. 15.]AYES.[9.15 p.m.
Adams, Capt. H. R. (Balham)Cocks, F. S.Grenfell, D. R.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Coldrick, W.Grierson, E.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Collick, P.Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)
Alpass, J. H.Collindridge, F.Gunter, Capt. R. J.
Attewell, H. C.Collins, V. J.Guy, W. H.
Austin, H. L.Colman, Miss G. M.Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)
Awbery, S. S.Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.Hale, L.
Ayles, W. H.Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.Corlett, Dr. J.Hamilton, Lieut-Col. R.
Bacon, Miss A.Corvedale, ViscountHardman, D. R.
Balfour, A.Crossman, R. H. S.Hardy, E. A.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Daggar, G.Hastings, Dr. Somerville
Barstow, P. G.Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Haworth, J.
Barton, C.Davies, Edward (Burslem)Henderson, J. (Ardwick)
Battley, J. R.Davies, Clement (Montgomery)Hobson, C. R.
Bechervaise, A. E.Davies, Ernest (Enfield)Holman, P.
Belcher, J. W.Davies, Harold (Leek)Horabin, T. L.
Benson, G.de Freitas, Sqn.-Ldr. G.House, G.
Berry, H.Diamond, J.Hoy, J.
Beswick, Flt.-Lieut. F.Dodds, N. N.Hubbard, T.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Donovan, T.Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)
Binns, J.Douglas, F. C. R.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Blackburn, A. R.Driberg, T. E. N.Hughes, Lt. H. D. (W'lhampton, W.)
Blenkinsop, Capt. A.Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)
Blyton, W. R.Dumpleton, C. W.Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)
Boardman, H.Dye, S.Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Bottomley, A. G.Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Bower, N.Edelman, M.Janner, B.
Bowles, F. C. (Nuneaton)Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)Jeger, Capt. G. (Winchester)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)Fairhurst, F.Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Farthing, W. J.Jones, A. C. (Shipley)
Brook, D. (Halifax)Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Foot, M. M.Jones, J. H. (Bolton)
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Foster, W. (Wigan)Jones, Maj. P. Asterley (Hitchin)
Burden, T. W.Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Kenyan, C.
Burke, W. A.Gaitskell, H. T. N.Kinley, J.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)Gallacher, W.Lang, G.
Callaghan, JamesGibson, C. W.Lavers, S.
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Gilzean, A.Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.
Champion, A. J.Glanville, J. E. (Consett)Lee, F. (Hulme)
Chetwynd, Capt. G. R.Glossop, C. W. H.Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)
Cluse, W. S.Gordon-Walker, P. G.Lever, Fl. Off. N. H.
Cobb, F. A.Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.Levy, B. W.

10 minutes past nine. It is now 11 minutes past nine, and I conclude by pointing to the necessity of keeping our police force up to date and of taking time by the forelock and not by the tail. Where it is necessary to import modern ideas into the police force this Bill will give to the Home Secretary, either the present one or whoever is to succeed him, an instrument whereby something can be done in that direction.

Before the hon. Gentleman resumes his seat would he be kind enough to address himself to the question which I put—would the Government try to devise an Amendment which would set some limit to the objectives they have under the Bill, as regards the size of amalgamations?

We shall have an opportunity of discussing this matter with the local authorities.

Question put, "That the word 'now'stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 267; Noes, 80.

Lewis, J. (Bolton)Perrins, W.Symonds, Maj. A. L.
Lindgren, G. S.Popplewell, E.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Lipson, D. L.Porter, G. (Leeds)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
McAdam, W.Pritt, D. N.Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
McEntee, V. La T.Pursey, Cmdr. H.Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
McGovern, J.Randall, H. E.Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Mack, J. D.Ranger, J.Thomas, John R. (Dover)
McKay, J. (Wallsend)Rees, Williams, Lt.-Col. D. R.Thomas, George (Cardiff)
McLeavy, F.Reeves, J.Thomson, Rt. Hon. G. R. (E'b'gh, E.)
Macpherson, T. (Romford)Reid, T. (Swindon)Thorneycroft, H.
Mann, Mrs. J.Richards, R.Tiffany, S.
Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)Ridealgh, Mrs. M.Tolley, L.
Marshall, F. (Brightside)Robens, A.Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Mathers, G.Roberts, Sqn.-Ldr. E. O. (Merioneth)Ungoed-Thomas, Maj. L.
Mayhew, Maj. C. P.Roberts, G. O. (Caernarvonshire)Viant, S. P.
Medland, H. M.Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)Walkden, E.
Messer, F.Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)Walker, G. H.
Middleton, Mrs. L.Rogers, G. H. R.Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Mikardo, Ian.Royle, C.Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Mitchison, Maj. G. R.Sargood, R.Warbey, W. N.
Monslow, W.Scott-Elliot, W.Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Montague, F.Segal, Sqn. Ldr. S.Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Moody, A. S.Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.Wells, Maj. W. T. (Walsall)
Morgan, Dr. H. B.Shawcross, Cmdr. C. N. (Widnes)White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Morley, R.Shawcross, Sir H. (St. Helens)Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.Wing, G. E. C.
Mort, D. L.Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.Wilkins, W. A.
Moyle, A.Silverman, J. (Erdington)Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Murray, J. D.Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Nally, W.Simmons, C. J.Williams, Rt. Hon. E. J. (Ogmore)
Neal, H. (Claycross)Skeffington-Lodge, Lt. T. C.Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)Skinnard, F. W.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)Williamson, T.
O'Brien, T.Smith, Ellis (Stoke)Willis, E.
Oldfield, W. H.Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Oliver, G. H.Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)Wilson, J. H.
Orbach, M.Smith, T. (Normanton)Wise, Major F. J.
Paget, R. T.Snow, Capt. J. W.Woodburn, A.
Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)Sorensen, R. W.Woods, G. S.
Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Soskice, Maj. Sir F.Wyatt, Maj. W.
Palmer, A. M. F.Sparks, J. A.Yates, V. F.
Pargiter, G. A.Stamford, W.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Parker, J.Stewart, Capt. M. (Fulham)Younger, Maj. Hon. K. G.
Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T.Strachey, J.Zilliacus, K.
Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)Stross, Dr. B.
Paton, J. (Norwich)Stubbs, A. E.

TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—

Peart, Capt. T. F.Swingler, Capt. S.Mr. Pearson and Captain Bing.

NOES.

Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Gammans, Capt. L. D.Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. P.Grimston, R. V.Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Baldwin, A. E.Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)Poole, Col. O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.Hauhton, Maj. S. G.Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.
Boothby, R.Hinchingbrooke, ViscountRenton, D.
Bossom, A. C.Hogg, Hon. Q.Robinson, Wing-Comdr. J. R.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.Hollis, Sqn.-Ldr. M. C.Ropner, Col. L.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.Howard, Hon. A.Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)Spearman, A. C. M.
Butcher, H. W.Jennings, R.Stoddart-Scott, Lt.-Col. M.
Carson, E.Keeling, E. H.Stuart, Rt. Hon. J.
Challen, Flt.-Lieut. C.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Teeling, Flt.-Lieut. W.
Clarke, Col. R. S.Linstead, H. N.Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Low, Brig. A. R. W.Touche, G. C.
Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.Turton, R. H.
Cuthbert, W. N.Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)Vane, Lt.-Col. W. M. T.
Dodds-Parker, Col. A. D.Manningham-Buller, R. E.Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)Marlowe, A. A. H.Walker-Smith, Lt.-Col. D.
Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)Marples, Capt. A. E.Ward, Hon. G. R.
Drayson, Capt. G. B.Marsden, Comdr. A.Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Drewe, C.Marshall, Comdr. D. (Bodmin)Wheatley, Lt.-Col. M. J.
Duthie, W. S.Medlicott, Brig. F.White, Maj. J. B. (Canterbury)
Erroll, Col. F. J.Mellor, Sir J.Williams, Lt.-Cdr. G. W. (T'nbr'ge)
Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G.Molson, A. H. E.Young, Maj. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Fraser, Lt.-Col. Sir I. (Lonsdale)Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.

TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—

Gage, Lt.-Col. C.Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.Mr. Maude and
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.Peake, Rt. Hon. O.Mr. C. S. Taylor.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.

Bank Of England Bill

Mr. Benson, Captain Crookshank, Mr. Gaitskell and Mr. Williamson nominated Members of the Select Committee on the Bill.—[ Mr. Mathers.]

British Overseas Airways Corporation

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Mathers.]

9.24 p.m.

:I wish to raise the question of the British Overseas Airways Corporation about which I gave notice. The position of this Corporation has, for a considerable time worried the members of the Corporation. When I raised the question of the widespread discontent among them, I indicated that a considerable number of people in the Corporation were feeling that discontent at the way in which the Corporation was being run. In his answer my hon. Friend said that he would require not only the names of those who were discontented but letters from the persons concerned before he would feel justified in making any investigation. I wish therefore to read out a letter which was published in a reputable journal, "The Aeroplane," last year, because it does represent the feeling of those members of the Corporation who have put their case to me. If the House will bear with me for a few minutes I will read it out:

"It is with more than gratitude, perhaps with a touch of emotion, that your article 'Priority for Experience' will be read where-ever their airways stretch by those of us who struggled on, year after year, striving to maintain our loyalties and sense of humour, trying to believe in our future and to retain at least some of our earlier ambition for those things which enabled us to undertake cheerfully, hopefully and therefore efficiently our job, often difficult, frequently strenuous and usually under trying conditions. We grumbled frequently, and we said that the wages of sin is death, and the wages of Imperial Airways a damn sight worse. But the underlying team spirit was there and we were tremendously proud of our Empire air routes. Today we are bitter and bewildered; we watch with amazement and envy a steady flow into B.O.A.C. of marquises, group-captains and wing-commanders, commencing in the highest grades at salaries that we with five years hard work overseas behind us still dream about. We, who have returned after many years continuous service overseas often without leave find ourselves unwanted, often unknown to our new masters, and our wide and varied experience apparently rated as of little or no value. Many of us would gladly have joined up at the commencement of the war, but we were not allowed to do so, and overseas could do nothing about it. Today we feel that the new régime controlling B.O.A.C. would be only too glad to see the last of us go and may even have decided that we should do so. Perhaps our last hope is that someone reading 'The Aeroplane' may wish to know something of this matter. It seems we have no other channels for representing our case and frankly we fear to do."
Although that letter was written last year, representations made to me only quite recently substantiate the conditions about which it complains.

Can the hon. and gallant Member give the date of that letter?

It was in May. The whole thing can be summed up as discontent at the inefficiency of the Corporation at the present time, and there is amongst members of the staff an overwhelming feeling of frustration and insecurity. I realise that some time ago an effort was made in this House to vindicate the Corporation but I am not able to follow the argument then made. It was said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was satisfied that things were all right. He was only given a month's time between the date on which the item was put on the Order Paper and his giving his verdict. What is more, the Corporation was, according to my information at that time, largely a judge in its own cause. The point is that it has also been suggested more recently that B.O.A.C. in inefficient. I will commend to the House the yardstick of efficiency of airline operation which is becoming universally recognised, and that is, hours flown per day—the average hours flown per day by the aircraft operated. In 1944 B.O.A.C. operated their aircraft, on an average, two hours per day. In the Boeing flight during the summer between Baltimore and Poole it was nine hours per day. American Airlines, admittedly in the Pacific, which is a rather different area of operation, flew 11 hours per day. American Internal Airlines flew 13 hours, and the Trans-Western Airlines 14 hours per day. In the Pacific the figure for Consolidated is 14·7. I realise that we have been operating under war-time conditions, but I think the disparity between the B.O.A.C. figures and those of the American air lines is far too great.

If there is anything wrong with an organisation over a period of time, the main cause is invariably to be found at the top, and in this instance there seems to be no exception. Therefore, I want to refer to the basis on which the senior appointments are made. The case I make dates back to 1942, when there was a revolt among the senior staff due to their feeling that there was inefficiency on the part of those responsible for the Corporation's organisation. At that time it seems there were three main qualifications for appointments to the Board and key positions: the people had an interest in shipping lines, an interest in railways, or were previously associated with one of the two merger companies which were taken over by B.O.A.C. British Airways had largely failed in its job and had had to be purchased with public funds. Those who were, in the opinion of the staff at that time, considered to be chiefly to blame were the Chairman, who had been associated with British Airways and the Southern Railway, the Director-General, who was associated with the Runciman lines, the Deputy Director-General, who had been associated with British Airways, the Operations Director, who had a similar association, and another member of the Board who was also Chairman of the Orient Steam Navigation Company. Due largely to the staff discontent, three of these members resigned from the Board, and two still remain on the Corporation. Those two are the Operations Director of that time and the Deputy Director-General.

It has been shown by experience during the war, and more recently, that the technical and operational standards set by the Corporation are far from being what is desirable. I can speak at first hand of a case during the short time when I was transferred from the R.A.F. to serve with B.O.A.C. I know that Whitley aircraft which were being used by the Corporation were sent out on the responsibility of this Operations Director on a flight to West Africa. One of the pilots got as far as Gibraltar, and realised that he could not get any further. He was one of the most experienced pilots. One aircraft did set out and it landed with only an hour's reserve of petrol. It was a criminal thing to send an aircraft on such a mission. Overload tanks had to be flown out before the aircraft could be brought back. That sort of thing was happening some time ago, and this particular Operations Director was primarily responsible. There are two recent instances of a similar sort which I could give, except that I do not wish to mention them in public now, because I consider it not to be in the public interest to do so just at this moment; but they indicate that the same sort of thing is going on. That particular individual who was then Operations Director is now Technical Adviser to the present Chairman. It is understandable that there is a great deal of discontent amongst the flying staff when they see that sort of technical advice being given. As far as the Deputy Director-General is concerned, my experience with him is that he perpetually upsets the staff. I know of a specific instance when he was out in the Middle East and was responsible for using the information which came to him through military censorship sources, and tried to stifle information coming through by using censorship methods in order to try to hide up some of the inefficiencies at one of the Corporation's bases.

I wish now to refer to the reappointments to the Board—those who were placed on the Board after the others resigned. There seemed to be two main qualifications at that time. The responsible Minister was Sir Archibald Sinclair. The two qualifications still seemed to be either membership of the previous company, British Airways, or else that they were friends of his. That may be a strong statement to make. I saw one of the new members of the Board just after he had been appointed, and in his own words, he said he was doing it as a gesture of friendship to the Minister, that he did not know anything about the job, and as such he intended to take it on temporarily. He is still on the Board. Another instance was where a near relative of a Member of this House, a Member who was a friend of the Minister, was appointed, and again the appointment was made accordingly. It is in the Corporation's own regulations that there should not be a Member of the House on the Board, and yet it did not seem to matter to the Minister that a near relative should be.

On a point of Order. I understood the hon. and gallant Member to make the definite allegation, when one of these appointments was made, that the person appointed was a relative of a Member of this House. That is what I understood him to say. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will confirm whether that was so or not.

:Is it in Order for an hon. Member of this House to make a definite allegation that a person is appointed to a public Corporation on the grounds that he is a relative of a Member of this House unless it is done in the proper way by putting it on the Order Paper?

An hon. Member makes a statement on his own responsibility. I have no jurisdiction in the matter.

:The point I want to make clear is this, and I repeat what I said. Under the Corporation's own Act Members of this House are ruled out from being members of the Corporation because the taking up of such an appointment would tend to affect their position in this House. Is not the same principle involved if it is a near relative? That is the point I want to make, anyhow. Another case of appointment was that of a man who was associated with an organised trade union. There was a case where there might be some justification because the appointment was of somebody who had had experience in transport, but the unfortunate thing seems to be that, in the opinion of the staff, it was made of somebody who had been retired from that job. The feeling throughout the Corporation is that it requires young men with force and vision to take on the responsibility at the present time. Another appointment was seemingly a friendship. One finds it difficult to find any other motive. I may be wrong. There was the appointment of the Director-General himself. Of Brigadier-General Critchley I will not say more, as enough has been said to disqualify him from an appointment of that sort. Lastly, there is the Chairman himself who meets with general approval but seems to be without sufficient knowledge or the necessary strength to see that the sort of defects to which I refer are eliminated.

:I will be very brief. The point I make is that favouritism and friendship seem to be the sort of things which cause appointments on the Board to be made, and is it any wonder that it spreads discontent through the Corporation? That is inclined to be the case because there have been a considerable number of the friends of the Director-General brought into the Corporation over the heads of people who are experienced in the job. That causes the utmost dissatisfaction. It was said in this House that only 25 friends of the Director-General were brought in as against 1,800 brought in by the R.A.F., but the fact is that these people were brought in to fill key positions. There is still further apprehension among the staff, who see a number of retired Air-Marshals being brought into the Corporation. In America only recently, in a magazine of the Douglas Corporation, there was represented a pyramid standing on its point indicating the top-heavy nature of the Corporation, with the letters "B.O.A.C." That is the sort of international reputation we get.

:I will give the Minister a chance to reply. The point I want to make finally is that I do not blame the present Minister one little bit, but if we allow this sort of condition to continue we shall, by implication, give approval to these appointments. On some future occasion when time is available, I want to make a point of how procedure for making appointments should be followed so that we may in future avoid suspicions among the staff such as there are at the present time.

9.40 p.m.

:In view of the statement of policy which has been made to-day, involving a complete reorganisation of British air services, I do not think any long reply is called for from me tonight. This Debate has arisen through allegations of discontent in B.O.A.C. I should like to say that, when the matter was originally raised in a supplementary question, I said that I should require, not only the statement of my hon. and gallant Friend, but letters from the persons concerned. It is always difficult to use the right words on such occasions, but what I wanted to know was that these people had authorised the hon. and gallant Member to speak on their behalf. I have had enough experience, as have other hon. Members, of third persons asking us to intervene on behalf of someone to know that that was a wise precaution. The House should be aware that, in B.O.A.C., there is the fullest machinery for the redress of any grievances that members of the staff may feel.

:All grievances. Every member of the staff has direct access, through the proper channels, of course, to the Chairman of the Corporation. [Interruption.] No, no; on several occasions, notices have been issued by the Corporation calling the attention of the staff to this procedure, which has only been used, so far, on two or three occasions.

:Every member of the staff has had his attention drawn to it, as well as to the fact that the Chairman of the Corporation is very accessible for this purpose. In addition, every member of the staff is able to raise any grievances through the trade union to which he belongs, and I hope that every member of the staff does belong to some trade union or other. The fullest attention, I am assured, will be paid to any representations made by an authorised trade union.

In view of these courses open to any member of the staff with a grievance, I do not think I need go into any details. Let me say only these few things. B.O.A.C. has put up a very fine record in this war. It has operated entirely under wartime conditions, and its success or failure must be judged by wartime standards. I have come armed with figures, which it is not necessary for me to give, but, broadly speaking, the Corporation's activities have had a quintuple increase since the year of its inception, ending March, 1941. The capacity ton-miles, which is the most representative figure, has increased by 538 per cent. since 31st March, 1941, and that compares most favourably with, shall we say, the American increase, which is, roughly, an increase of 200 per cent. since that date. I do not think that B.O.A.C. would have achieved this result if there had been the widespread discontent that has been alleged.

Let me finally add this. If a complaint is made and substantiated by prima facie evidence, and the aggrieved person fails to get satisfaction by the regular procedure, I think my hon. Friend would feel it his duty to draw the attention of the Chairman of the Corporation to this fact, but the allegations would need to be specific and he would expect the regular procedure to be used in the first instance, and he would not depart, except for the weightiest reasons, from the principle that the day-to-day management of the Corporation should be left to the Board.

:Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, is he not going to say something about the very grave charges which were raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman? Perhaps he will consider this?

It being a Quarter to Ten o'Clock, Mr. Deputy-Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.