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Protection Against Wage Robberies

Volume 212: debated on Wednesday 5 November 1958

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2.41 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to ask the Question a which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they propose to provide protection for messengers sent by firms to draw wages from a bank.]

My Lords, such matters must be left to the judgment of chief officers of police, who are always ready to offer advice to firms on preventive measures.

My Lords, may I ask whether it would not be simpler if wages could be paid by cheque?

My Lords, I do not think it is for me to give an opinion on that aspect. I fear that it is not contained in the Question.

My Lords, may I ask whether or not the Home Secretary is in communication with county standing joint committees, and with watch committees, on what special steps need be taken, having regard to the present crime wave?

My Lords, I am frankly unable to answer the noble Viscount's question positively, but I cannot imagine that this particular matter is not engaging my right honourable friend's attention as a very important one.

I am afraid I have had my supplementary thunder stolen by the noble Earl on this Bench. My supplementary was to have been: would the Government consider initiating legislation to make it possible for wages to be paid by cheque?

My Lords, as I said just now, I do not think that it would be proper for me to endeavour to answer that point as arising out of the noble Viscount's original Question.

My Lords, would the noble Lord be willing to bring the matter to the notice of his right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Have we reached the stage where it has become necessary to have armoured cars to protect the transport of money from one place to another?

Is the Minister not aware that this matter is at the present moment under discussion between the Ministry of Labour, the employers' organisations and the trade unions?

I am quite aware that there are discussions going on. But alternative methods of payment, and so on, do not arise from the noble Viscount's Question.

Has the noble Lord considered the appalling premiums that must be paid by these firms now to cover the loss of wages? I know that that is only a small point. Alternatively, have Her Majesty's Government considered that very shortly someone will be murdered, and then the whole country will get up on their hind legs, and the Government will have to do something about it?

My Lords, my personal impression is that the premium for such cover is not high at all. So far as a murder being. committed is concerned, we have a police force, and I think it is up to all firms to co-operate, so far as possible, with the police. I regret to say that it is not my opinion that enough firms do that now. A great deal more could be done by firms to protect their property, and I hope that they will make use of the various recommended preventive measures which they can be told about if they ask the police.

My Lords, does it not really stand out a mile that, with the present state of the police force, so short in personnel and with so many men diverted to other tasks than those of preventing crime or pursuing criminals. something more urgent should be done by the Government?

My Lords, that is precisely the reason why I suggested that firms themselves should take more active steps. I do not want to weary your Lordships, and it would be improper for me to do so, by going through the long list in my mind of the things that they could do.

My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord does not mean that firms should organise themselves into a series of vigilantes.

My Lords, I think that when the police are offering firms preventive assistance in this matter, it is at least up to the firms to do everything they can to co-operate with the police to protect their own property.