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Special Constables (Bounty)

Volume 983: debated on Thursday 1 May 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of present recruitment levels into the Special Constabulary, he will consider paying a bounty to special constables who successfully fulfil their annual duty in the public service.

This is one of the possibilities being considered by the working party set up by the Police Advisory Board.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that encouraging answer. Does he not agree that in the 1980s an entirely different situation arises from that which existed at the time when the Special Constabulary was first established? Therefore, is it not essential to introduce some measure along these lines?

That proposal is being considered and I welcome the opportunity of telling the House that we are concerned to reverse the decline in the strength of the Special Constabulary. It has a valuable role to play and our concern for it is reflected in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary at the Metropolitan Police Special Constabulary annual dinner later this month. He will show by his presence the high regard and importance that we attach to the work of the Special Constabulary.

Will my hon. and learned Friend accept that relations between the regular police and the Specials have improved considerably, particularly since the implementation in full of the Edmund-Davies report? As a result of some of the old tensions disappearing, will he not agree that the time is now right for an imaginative expansion of the Special Constabulary? The idea of using a Territorial Army-type bounty is worth considering urgently.

I certainly agree that the time has come to assist in the expansion of the Special Constabulary. That is why the working party is looking into these matters. I think that the climate is right, both for the reasons given by my hon. Friend and the more general fact that the support that the Special Constabulary can give to the regular police is increasingly recognised. I very much hope that we shall make progress in this direction.

Does not my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is essential for the Government to encourage any sort of voluntary service? Will the working party look into the possibility of ensuring that whatever bounty is given, a certain amount each year is free from tax?

If the working party favours the recommendation for a bounty, it will have to consider the tax implications. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing that aspect of the bounty proposal to the attention of the House.