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Police Pay And Conditions

Volume 888: debated on Monday 17 March 1975

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11.59 p.m.

My main purpose in initiating this debate under Class IX of the Estimates is to highlight the manpower crisis which I believe is now crippling the efficiency and the effectiveness of Britain's police service.

Britain's police forces are in many cases undermanned, overworked and underpaid. It might be said that the thin blue line is not simply getting thinner. In some areas it is wasting away almost to vanishing point and certainly to vanquishing point, since the chronic manpower shortage is causing the police to be defeated on many fronts in their continuing war against crime.

The only constructive way of beating the police manpower deficiency is by improving the pay and conditions of policemen. I shall make some suggestions on this in a moment, but I hope that the House will bear with me if I first give one or two figures in order to outline the dimensions of the undermanning problem.

Virtually every police force in the country is under establishment strength. Against an establishment for England and Wales of 115,000, the actual police strength is 101,000. It is worrying enough to know that the official figures themselves show that we are 14,000 policemen short, but the position is much worse than the official statistics indicate. These establishment figures must be treated with considerable scepticism, because they are determined somewhat arbitrarily by the Home Office largely on the basis of recruitment possibilities rather than on true police requirements. As a result, most senior police officers regard the present establishment levels as unrealistic.

In a paper presented to the autumn conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Chief Constable of Hertfordshire calculated that nearly 125,000 policemen were required for adequate everyday policing, and his is by no means the highest assessment. It is no part of my case to argue the need for an excessive number of policemen, but I think it is right to be suspicious of the Home Office establishment figures and to say that the true position is that we are short of at least 20,000 policemen in England and Wales.

If the police manpower deficiency seems parlous when looked at on a national basis, it appears positively dangerous when studied in the conurbations, especially in London, where there are now 800 fewer policemen than there were in 1920, even though the crime rate is 20 times higher. Today the Metropolitan Police are 5,500 officers short of their establishment strength of 26,500.

This 21 per cent. manpower shortage in the capital is already causing a breakdown in the ability of the Metropolitan Police to cope adequately with most categories of crime. In any one day in London some 180 burglaries are committed, and so also are some 335 thefts of and from motor vehicles. The police are so undermanned and overworked that they can spend only a maximum of two or three hours investigating each of these crimes, with the result that the criminals, most of whom are thought to be juveniles, have a nine-out-of-ten chance of going undetected.

In other categories of crime the burden being carried by Metropolitan Police officers is no less intolerable. Despite the invaluable back-up work being done by civilians, two-thirds of Flying Squad officers are working more than 99 hours of overtime a month, and some officers are doing 120 hours. In the Fraud Squad the overtime figures are even higher. On top of their case loads, every member of the Metropolitan Police force has to be prepared to cope with the 1,500 bomb alarm calls each month, of which nearly 700 are made in good faith and all of which have to be taken seriously.

Another major cause of pressure on the police is the numerous political demonstrations on Saturdays or Sundays. Sir Robert Mark has said some strong words about these today, and I agree with his comments about "derisory sentences". But the impact on manpower of these demonstrations is such that many Metropolitan Police officers are called up for weekend duty on seven weekends out of eight.

If the policeman is prepared to put up with this continuous disruption of his weekend leave, his wife may not be so tolerant. Certainly the manpower shortage in the Metropolitan Police force puts grave strains on a policeman's family life, and this is a major factor in the high wastage rate.

The wastage rate in the Metropolitan Police deserves a moment or two of close analysis. The year 1973 saw the worst wastage in 18 years, with 1,627 officers leaving the force, despite a substantial pay increase and a higher rent allowance. In 1974 the wastage figure was slightly lower, with 1,459 officers leaving the force, the reduction being due perhaps to the introduction of the London weighting allowance of £201 per annum. However, it is worth noting that in the period from 1st January 1973 to 31st December 1974, 423 of the officers leaving the Metropolitan Police transferred to other forces, principally to areas like Dorset, Hampshire, Lincolnshire or the Thames Valley and Devon and Cornwall, where the policeman's lot is a more rural and, perhaps, a happier one.

The most important and depressing point in these wastage figures is that they exceeded comfortably the figure of incoming recruits. In the two years 1973 and 1974 the Metropolitan Police suffered a net loss of 768 officers. During the same period the crime rate rose substantially, with indictable crimes increasing by 16 per cent. to more than 400,000 offences.

The picture of high wastage and low recruitment against a background of rising crime traps the force in a vicious circle. The more that wastage increases, the more onerous and unpleasant becomes the job for those who stay. That in turn leads to inadequate recruitment, further wastage and an even more impossible workload for those who still serve in the force. Unless the manpower drift is reversed, we shall soon be approaching a humiliating defeat in London's battle against crime.

It is a remarkable tribute to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Robert Mark, and to his men that despite the shortage of manpower the morale of the Metropolitan Police has been kept at a high level and that the specialist squads have achieved several successes, such as a reduction in the rate of bank robberies and a falling-off in the rate of muggings. However, we shall be living in a fool's paradise if we attach too much importance to short-term tactical triumphs and neglect the steady deterioration in the London crime situation caused by the manpower shortage.

I have discussed the problems of the Metropolitan Police at some length because they illustrate most dramatically the disturbing nature of the manpower shortage. Although some of the London problems are special, the general London picture is far from unique. Throughout the country the manpower shortage is changing the fundamental nature of police work. A few years ago the first priority of any police force was the prevention of crime. That preventive rôle is now being whittled away. Those most effective units of police work, the copper who knew his beat or the detective who knew his "manor" are fast becoming anachronisms. Those men are scarce on the ground and are becoming scarcer. London now has only three policemen for every square mile. In cities such as Leeds and Birmingham the police are stretched even more thinly.

Instead of preventing crime the police have been forced, largely by manpower difficulties, to react to crime only after it has been committed. This change to "fire brigade" policing, as it is known, is a change for the worse. This deterioration in the prevention of crime will continue unless the Government of the day can be persuaded to exercise their political will in favour of reallocating the resources of the State to improve the police manpower situation.

The first priority in overcoming the manpower situation is to pay all policemen a basic wage which compares reasonably well with other occupations. This does not happen at the moment. The basic initial pay of a constable is around £36 a week. That basic minimum figure is far too low, especially in view of the responsibilities taken on by a constable. That view appears to have been shared by the Seventh Report of the Expenditure Committee, under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Newham, North West (Mr. Lewis), which reported in July last year.

The Committee made the interesting suggestion that a constable's pay might be linked with the pay of an average industrial employee. At the time the Committee reported, that average with £46 a week. It is now well over £50 a week. These linkage matters are under consideration by the current comprehensive police pay review, but certainly it is right to say that there is a strong feeling amongst the police themselves that the basic floor of the constable's pay is too low even though overtime rates may push up gross earnings to an acceptable level.

Overtime earnings are quite irrelevant in attracting recruits because the recruit or potential recruit knows nothing about such frings benefits as boot allowances and rent allowances, and probably less above overtime rates. All he may consider is the basic rate of pay, and that probably is not good enough to attract new men and women into the force.

For the officers already in the force, overtime is inevitably something of a hit-and-miss affair depending upon the force in which they serve. I urge the Government is give priority to tackling the problem of improving the constable's basic rate. That is the fundamental unit of police pay on which the structure of other ranks' pay can be built. Improving the basic wage is far more important than tinkering with overtime rates or fringe benefits.

Next, I should like to say a word about how overtime rates affect the ranks of superintendent and chief superintendent. In the police service overtime payments are made only to the federated ranks—namely, the ranks between constable and chief inspector. As a result many superintendents have discovered, on promotion to their new rank, that their gross earnings have reduced by as much as £1,000 or £1,500 a year from what they were earning in the lower rank of chief inspector. That means that a superintendent has a real problem about the erosion of differentials. I doubt whether there is any differential problem more worthy of sympathetic attention than that of the superintendents of police—the operational high command of the police service.

I am told that some chief inspectors now coming up before promotion boards are seriously asked the question "Can you afford to be promoted to superintendent?" That is a sad indication of how the differential rates have gone astray.

These differential problems can get worse when a superintendent or chief superintendent takes charge of a major incident such as a murder hunt or a rail disaster. In these circumstances the superintendent or chief superintendent in charge, being a non-overtime grade, will be overtaken subsequently in earnings by many of his subordinates.

To illustrate the point, I should like to give the House some figures of gross earnings of police officers currently engaged on the Lesley Whittle murder case. For the 28 day period 9th February to 9th March, the pay of the detective chief superintendent in charge of the case was £503 and the pay of his deputy, a detective superintendent, was £434. These ranks are, of course, non-overtime grades. But in the federated ranks, where overtime rates are paid, the gross earnings during that period were very much greater. For example, during the same 28-day period, on the same murder hunt, a detective chief inspector was paid £695, one detective inspector was paid £782, another detective inspector was paid £699, several detective sergeants were paid between £500 and £540 and several detective constables were paid between £440 and £465.

I should like to make it clear that I am not for one moment suggesting that those policemen did not deserve their overtime. On the contrary, I am sure that they deserved it many times over. But what I am saying is that, when a constable earns more in a month than a superintendent or when an inspector earns £70 per week more than his chief superintendent who is in charge of the case, the overtime differential problem has got ludicrously out of control and must be remedied by replacing the present overtime rates by better basic rates of pay for all ranks. This is also the main way of attracting men of good quality into the police service and persuading them to stay in it for life.

I turn now to police housing. The offer of a police house should be a big attraction for recruits, and indeed it is, but it can also be a disincentive for a man in a police house to stay his full term in the force if he knows that he will be out in the cold at 55 years of age without a home of his own.

If we are to stop this big problem of wastage in the police, the most effective step that could be taken, other than increasing the basic pay, is to introduce a scheme making it easier for police officers to buy their own homes. I am thinking in terms of 100 per cent. mortgages at concessionary interest rates. Such schemes are already run by the big banks for their employees. I do not see why the Home Office should not introduce a similar scheme for police officers, particularly in areas such as London where they are most needed. I also understand that the Greater London Council is introducing some form of concessionary mortgage scheme for London's firemen, so that it would not be such a revolutionary step to offer a similar concession to London's policemen.

After talking to a number of police officers from the Commissioner downwards, I am certain that a concessionary mortgage scheme for Metropolitan Police officers would do more than anything else to halt the wastage of manpower and the drift of trained officers to other forces. I hope that the Minister will look favourably on this idea and be able to overrule the mandarins of the Treasury when it comes to arguing about it.

I turn now to recruitment. According to the Expenditure Committee's Report to which I referred earlier, only £628,000 out of a total police expenditure in England and Wales of £521 million was spent on advertising for recruits. The Estimate shows that in London only £170,000 of the Metropolitan Police budget of over £170 million was spent on recruiting advertising. When I reflect that a small advertising campaign, such as the £10,000 spent on advertising for special constables in the Metropolitan Police, managed to produce an increase of 30 per cent., I doubt whether we are doing enough to advertise recruiting for our police. I suggest that more money should be allocated to this purpose.

I have said a lot about money tonight but I recognise that the police service has much more to it than financial rewards. Sir Robert Mark put this thought very well in a recent interview published in the Listener, when he said:
"It is not just a question of getting the material rewards right. We can only attract the kind of people we want by raising our reputation for integrity and effectiveness."
That is right. The police service must have both good morals and good morale. In this country we are remarkably lucky on both counts. We are lucky, too, in the general high quality of service that we receive from our police, but the fact that so many of our policemen are dedicated to the concept of service and duty partly out of a sense of vocation is no reason why we should exploit the vocation by giving the police unsatisfactory pay and conditions.

Finally, it may be argued that in presenting the case for easing the police manpower crisis I have asked for the implementation of certain policies which will mean increased public expenditure. When the inevitable cry goes up "Can we afford it?", my reply must be "But can we afford not to have an adequate police service?" Our society today is suffering from all kinds of internal strains, of which the alarming rise in juvenile crime and the terrifying growth of terrorist activity are just two examples. These conditions require an increasingly effective police service.

I believe that the police service is slipping backwards and is steadily losing ground in the war against crime largely because of these manpower problems. If we wish to halt this adverse decline, the only safe and honest answer is better police pay and conditions. The police service today costs in round figures £520 million, compared with about £4,000 million spent on defence and about £2,000 million on social security. It is my belief that a much higher priority should be given to the police service by reallocating more of our national financial resources to strengthen it. I realise that this will require a strong political will in the difficult days ahead. I look forward to hearing from the Minister whether the Government have the necessary will.

12.17 a.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) has displayed a formidable knowledge and insight into the realities and morale of the Metropolitan Police and the wider police service. The analysis that he has presented to the House is extremely disturbing. The points that he made, particularly about the differential effects of the rates of overtime between the different grades in the police service, are profoundly disturbing. This is an original and striking piece of research which must have been carried out with great intensity to derive these figures so recently in the aftermath of the case to which my hon. Friend referred.

I hope very much that the Under-Secretary will be able to reassure the House in the context of what my hon. Friend said. I hope, too, that she will be able to comment upon the words contained in the Vote and subhead which my hon. Friend specified in selecting this debate, namely, the fact that the extra money we are being asked to vote, the increase of £8·8 million, represents increased pay and prices and additional goods and services offset by a shortfall in recruitment.

My hon. Friend pinpointed the frightful dilemma, particularly in the metropolis, which is presented by the shortfall in recruitment. I hope that the hon. Lady will not overlook the fact—and the House must have some reassurance in the light of what my hon. Friend said—that in the relevant part of the Public Expenditure White Paper—I refer to page 87, column 15, under the heading "Police" —the projected increase in police manpower to 10,525 over the current quinquennium is lower than that which was assumed in the White Paper published by Mr. Anthony Barber as he then was. It is very disturbing that the present Government have apparently settled for a lower figure for police recruitment, and this sticks out all the more sombrely in the light of the facts which my hon. Friend has drawn to the attention of the House.

I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that the fall in estimated expenditure shown in Table 2(9) of the Public Expenditure White Paper between Mr. Barber's White Paper and the current one of £43·7 million for the financial year 1975–76 is not expected to fall wholly on the police service. I hope that the hon. Lady's advisers will find means of presenting her with information on which she can assure us that the reduction will be spread.

My hon. Friend has deployed a formidable indictment of the complacency, as it appears to many of us, of the Government in public expenditure in this sector in the context of the severe strains suffered by the police. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us.

12.22 a.m.

I am grateful for the opportunity afforded by the initiative of the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) to discuss the financing of the police service. The House discusses the police generally from time to time but it seldom singles out the financial aspects for special attention.

As has been recognised, the police are necessarily a costly service. In the coming financial year total expenditure in England and Wales, both local and central, will be about £600 million. It is important to draw a distinction between expenditure as a whole and the way in which that expenditure is met. No one would suggest that we spend too much on our police and that we could therefore do with fewer of them. We get value from our police, not only because of efficient methods and careful administration at all levels—although that is important—but because the people giving good service are dedicated to the work they do.

There is much more to an efficient service like the police than is apparent from the accounts which we are discussing. The subhead to which the hon. Member referred comes under the main heading of "General Protective Services". When discussing financial matters we must remember the other aspects which go into the higher standard that the community receives from its police.

The hon. Member did not go into great detail about the arrangements, which are complicated, under which the police service is financed, but I should like to remind the House that expenditure is incurred in the first place by police authorities, which receive from the Home Office a specific sum of 50 per cent. of their approved expenditure. In the City of London the rate is 33½ per cent. This specific grant originated in the last century and was linked to inspection, the grant being payable only to a force which is certified as efficient. The remainder of the cost of the police service is met from rates and the rate support grant. Police expenditure is included in the total of relevant local authority expenditure for the calculation of the aggregate Exchequer grant for rate support grant purposes.

Although this system may appear complicated, the division of the cost of the police among specific grant, rate support grant and the rates may reflect a number of different considerations. To start with there is the local nature of the police service. On the other hand much of police expenditure is on manpower costs, over which police authorities have a lesser amount of discretion. Yet if all, or nearly all, of the cost were to be met by central Government this could lead to gradually increased centralisation, with far-reaching constitutional implications. I have no doubt that these considerations are among those which the Layfield Committee will have in mind.

I am sure the House realises that I cannot today make a statement of Government policy on a matter which is among those being considered by the Layfield Committee on Local Government Finance. It does, however, involve questions of pay and conditions of the police and the system of Government grants to police authorities. The Government are studying very carefully the report of the Expenditure Committee on police manpower and recruitment, which made some very detailed recommendations. The reply will be available shortly, so I would not wish to anticipate it. I would point out, however, that action has already been taken on one issue—the lowering of the age limit. The Committee regarded that as important.

Most of the cost of the police—some 80 per cent.—goes on manpower. That was emphasised very strongly by the hon. Member for Thanet, East. The cost of the service as a whole is, therefore, very susceptible to change as manpower levels, salaries and pensions change. Other items of police expenditure are for the most part tied to manpower levels—vehicles, for example.

With that in mind, I should like to tell the House where we now stand as far as police recruitment and pay are concerned. At 31st January this year the total strength of the police forces in England and Wales was 101,926. This is a reduction of 160 from the figure of 102,086 at the end of 1974. It was due to a lower intake in January following a very high intake in November and December. The net gain for 1974 was 1,520. Recruitment during the year, at 7.545, was the highest for many years and the indications are that the drop in the intake in January was a temporary one.

The House will be aware that a feature of the rate support grant settlement for 1975–76 was that it provided for little increase in manpower, and it may be asked how this is reconciled with the Government's intention to build up police strength. The Government have placed no restriction on police recruiting and police authorities are free to recruit up to the authorised establishment of the force. The rate support grant settlement provides for an increase in strength of 1,000 police officers. This increase was that which seemed to be capable of achievement—this covers one point made by the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison)—in the light of recruitment figures at the time of the settlement, but police authorities were told that if it was exceeded specific grant would be paid on any additional manpower recruited within the limits of authorised establishments. Provision was also made for a small increase in the number of police civilian staff, including traffic wardens. I am aware that this unfortunately means that the expansion of the traffic warden service, particularly in London, cannot go forward as quickly as one would have hoped and as might otherwise have been the case.

The hon. Member for Barkston Ash pointed out an apparent fall in provision from that of Mr. Barbers' White Paper. I should make the point that the Home Office is committed in this financial year to provide the funds needed for such recruits as there may be within approved establishments. That is the point I have just made. The Government will continue to be guided by this attitude in making future financial provision.

As regards the Metropolitan Police, on which the hon. Member for Thanet, East laid stress, I am glad to say that there was a net increase of 21 in the strength of the Metropolitan Police during January—small though the hon. Gentleman may consider it, nevertheless it was an increase—bringing the figure to 20,871.

I think I am right in saying that of that increase of 21, 20 are women police officers and that there was a slight falling-off in the number of men police officers. The increase referred to was due largely to the new equal pay structure, which is to be welcomed, but it does not alter significantly the picture of a steady deterioration and wastage from the "Met". I hone that the Minister will not continue with the argument that one month's figures showing a sudden surge of women coming in alters in any way the fundamental truth of the picture I was painting.

Since the Government are about to bring in the Sex Discrimination Bill I would not suggest that because these recruits are women they should not be considered in any sort of serious way. I would not like the recruits concerned to feel that that was how they were so regarded.

I must defend my hon. Friend. He did not say anything of the kind. He said that these women came in because they wanted to take advantage of special inducements. He said that this was a good thing.

I share the hon. Member's welcome of women recruits.

The gain in 1974 as a whole was 67, though this included 326 officers transferred from the British Airports Constabulary.

The Minister is scratching around in order to present a much more optimistic picture of the police than the situation deserves. Of course there was a gain where a new police force was taken over. If we discount that takeover, the overall picture gives a figure of about 280. I gave the figure for two years combined. The situation is therefore quite serious.

I am not trying to make out that the position is not serious. I share the hon. Member's concern. I am giving the House the figures as they are. I am not trying to make out that this is a happy situation. There is certainly a great deal to be done in getting more men to join the service. I realise full well that there is much ground to be made up before the losses of the last two years can be recouped. My right hon. Friend has announced his intention of reducing the age of entry into the police service from 19 to 18½ and we hope that this may produce some increase in numbers.

The manpower situation generally is not good. However, it must be appreciated that efforts are being made to increase manpower but that there are special difficulties in some areas, and not only in London. All the large conurbations make special demands on their police and place strains on individual officers, all of which create difficulties for these areas.

It is recognised that premature wastage in the Metropolitan Police rather than some sudden and dramatic fall in recruitment has been the main cause of the manpower difficulties of this force over the last few years. The causes of the wastage are many and complex, although in a broad sense the strains imposed by working and living in London must lie at the root of many. Clearly, however, the fewer the men, the greater the burdens placed upon them.

No single step which my right hon. Friend or the Commissioner can take will end premature wastage, but I can assure hon. Members that no practical opportunity to improve conditions and so to help the manpower situation will be lost.

The hon. Member referred to recruitment publicity. Recruitment is the responsibility of individual chief officers of police, and police authorities are encouraged to make provision for necessary expenditure on local publicity. The Home Office, with the agreement of the local authority associations and the Commissioner of Police, arranges for national publicity. This includes direct advertising in the national Press, aimed primarily at those seeking to change their jobs, longer-term advertising intended to influence those who have not yet decided on a career, and representation of the police service at national careers exhibitions and conventions. The general effort is greatly assisted by the approaches made to schools by individual forces. Expenditure during 1974–75 is likely to be about £680,000. We intend that it should continue at this level during 1975–76. The Metropolitan Police expects to spend about £130,000 during 1974–75 and will also continue at that level in 1975–76.

The hon. Member mentioned demonstrations, and I am aware of the difficulties created for the Metropolitan Police by these. They strain the resources of the force and the patience of the officers of all ranks whose duty it is to be present at them. Moreover, many of them tend to deny officers concerned the rest and relaxation which they have earned at other times of the week. It is not easy to relieve police of this burden. A number of demonstrations present threats to public order and yet the right to free assembly is not one to be lightly restricted.

In his recent report Lord Scarman, after careful consideration, concluded that the balance of the law in these matters had not been shown to be unsound. Long and careful thought would have to be given to any proposal which limited these rights in an effort to relieve police of a difficult and sometimes dangerous job.

I am aware of the Commissioner's remarks today about demonstrations, to which the hon. Member referred. The Commissioner's views about sentences are, of course, his own and ones which he is free to express. I think that the figures he gave of the number of demonstrations underlines the point I have already made about the burden they place upon the force.

I come now to the question of pay. A Police Council for the United Kingdom is established under the Police Act 1969 to consider questions of police pay and certain other conditions of service. Pay negotiations are the responsibility of the council, which operates on Whitley lines, with an official side consisting of representatives of the police authorities and the Home Department and a staff side comprised of representatives of police officers. Chief constables act as advisers to the official side. The council is very much aware of the needs of the service and the importance of adequate remuneration in meeting the problems of recruiting and wastage.

Last year the Police Council reached agreement on new pay scales which gave substantial increases for all ranks from 1st September. For example, the salary of a newly-appointed constable outside London was raised to £1,632 per annum, an increase of 20·6 per cent. of the previous year. In addition all police officers receive threshold payments amounting to £229·68 a year, so that a new constable now starts at £1,861. Other important features of the settlement were the introduction of a supplement to compensate for the large number of unsocial hours worked by the police, and the full implementation of equal pay for women officers. Police officers are also entitled to free quarters or a rent allowance in lieu. Maximum limits of rent allowance vary from £8·40 to £15·78, effectively tax-free. The highest allowance in England and Wales—£15·78 a week—is paid in London and is due for review from the 1st April this year.

As part of last year's agreement the Police Council agreed to undertake a review of the structure of police pay, and a working party was set up. Considerable progress has been made, and it is hoped that a report will be submitted to the Police Council at about the end of this month. If so, this will be a speedy conclusion to an extremely complex task, and I can assure the House that the Government will take very seriously the report and any recommendations which the council make on it.

In the light of the extremely revealing figures produced by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) on differentials between ranks, particularly in overtime, can the hon. Lady assure us that it will not be too late for the Home Office representative on the council to take these remarks into account and give some recognition to the extraordinary situation to which my hon. Friend referred?

The hon. Gentleman's speech will be carefully considered and the points he made will be looked into.

As for London, the London allowance for the federated ranks and superintendents was increased from £74 to £275 a year from 1st April that year, following the Pay Board's report. I hope that this gives some indication of the progress which has been made and which I hope will be made in police pay.

Housing was another important issue which the hon. Member for Thanet, East raised. Clearly the problems of manpower and morale in the large urban forces are exacerbated by housing problems. The Government are very conscious of the need for an effective and progressive policy. The Police Advisory Board has reconvened its working party on housing to examine schemes to facilitate house purchase by police officers. The working party has met on a number of occasions and is now preparing a report for submission to the full board as soon as possible. I can assure hon. Members that everything practicable is being done to implement proposals arising out. of this examination which will in any way contribute towards improving matters for the police service.

This has been a useful discussion, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that the points he has raised will be carefully studied and borne in mind. The debate has reminded us of some of the issues which bear on the complex question of financing the police and on the matters now being considered by the Layfield inquiry. Finance is one of the cornerstones of an efficient and contented police service, and I hope that what I have said will remind the House of the constructive attitude and constant vigilance of the Government in all matters related to the police, including pay and manpower.