asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the indignation created by refusing to confirm the appointment of the deputy chief constable of Salford to be chief constable as recommended by the Watch Committee; that this officer joined the Salford police force as a probationer constable, has passed through every phase of police work in the force and has been deputy chief constable nine years and acting chief for the last six months; and what are the reasons for disqualifying him for this post.
I have, on two occasions, discussed this matter at length with representatives of the local police authority, and have, in addition, given a personal interview to the candidate himself. I have no reason to doubt that, in the course of these interviews, all the material facts were brought to my notice. I greatly regret that I could not approve the watch committee's choice, but, after the most careful consideration, I could reach no other conclusion than that the candidate whose name they submitted was unfit for the post of chief constable.
In view of the fact that the Minister has not given the reason why this man has been disqualified, will he explain why he was refused confirmation by the Home Office before any interview had been arranged, and also whether he is aware that the Home Office approved the short list of six prior to the appointment being made?
The Home Office does not approve or disapprove the appointment. The Home Secretary does that, and I take the full responsibility in this matter. I pursued a course in this case which, I am told, is without precedent. I twice interviewed the watch committee in London, although they did not pay me the compliment of sending the chairman of the watch committee as one of their delegation to meet me. I also interviewed the candidate, and, as one who has given 40 years of his life to interviewing candidates for local government appointments, I say that if this man had appeared in front of me, and had been the best candidate, I should have readvertised the appointment.
In view of the fact that this man had 27 years' service and was condemned in an interview lasting 30 minutes, is the Minister aware that the Salford Watch Committee are receiving support from all parts of the country, including his own constituency, who have stated that they have appointed two chief constables neither of whom had served in any other police force?
If my constituency have said that, the people who stated it have misinformed Salford. Many queer things have been done in South Shields for which I am not responsible. I am responsible for this appointment. Never before has a Home Secretary granted an interview to a candidate whose application he was, considering. I gave the man not half an hour, but three-quarters of an hour, and I venture to say that is a longer time than the Salford Watch Committee gave to any of the other candidates they interviewed.
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether, in his opinion, this deputy chief constable of Salford is in any way inefficient for the job?
He is inefficient for the job of chief constable of Salford.
Is my right hon. Friend convinced that he is more capable of judging the capabilities of an officer than those who have been controlling the officer for some years past?
The difficulty is that the law places a certain responsibility upon me. I have to discharge that responsibility in accordance with my own conscience. I make no reflection on the good faith of the Salford Watch Committee. They have discharged their responsibility. I have discharged mine. I regret that our views do not coincide.
In view of the unsatisfactory reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this question on the Adjournment.