Orders of the Day — Women Police.

– in the House of Commons on 14th March 1922.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Major Sir Richard Barnett Major Sir Richard Barnett , St Pancras South West

I have given notice of a Motion to reduce the Police Vote by £100, in order to draw attention to the question of women police, and to ask why the Home Office has not given effect to the Report of the Committee on Police Duties. Two years ago a very strong Committee was appointed to deal with this question. That Committee held a large number of sittings. For 11 days they took evidence: they examined 47 witnesses, and they came to a unanimous Report, which was in favour of the continuance of the system of women police. The summary of their Report was: We consider that the experience of the War has proved that women can be employed with advantage to the community to discharge certain police duties that formerly were exclusively discharged by men. For the efficient performance of these duties it is essential that the women should be specially qualified, highly trained, and well paid, and that they should form an integral part of the police force. That recommendation has not been carried out. These women have not been made an integral part of the police. What is the result? They have been handed over to the tender mercies of the Geddes Committee, who, very naturally, have said that with the present duties that they have to discharge they are not worth the money that they are paid. That is a very natural Report from a Committee which we appointed simply to look for economy. But if my right hon. Friend had given the women police the powers which the Committee recommended that they should be given, the question of their utility would not have arisen at all. Last year I drew attention to one province that had been neglected and that is our great parks where there are traps for young children. It was shown over and over again that offenders were undetected and unpunished, whereas women police might have brought the miscreants to justice. The preventive work done in London and other large cities by these women police has been of the greatest possible value. There was a very large amount of work done in London by the hundred women police during the past year, 1,080 women prisoners were searched. That is work which must be done by women, and if the Geddes Report is acted upon more women will have to be employed by the police for this purpose. There were 322 women prisoners escorted. There were 58 who had attempted suicide watched in hospital. That also is work which must be done by women, and must be paid for out of the police fund, so that the economy suggested by doing away with the women police will only be a partial economy. I think the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to consider the Report of his own Committee which is unanimously in favour of the maintenance of the women police. If this is done, no very large sum of money is involved, but the effect will be that this force set up during the War, which has done such excellent work, will be maintained and not sacrificed on a false plea of economy. The Committee acknowledge the good work done during the War by special bodies of women. They say they are convinced that such work must in normal times be solely entrusted to women under the direct order of the police authorities, who must be left free to decide how far the circumstances of a locality for the policing of which they are responsible require the employment of women constables, and where women are so employed they consider their pay and conditions of service should be uniform throughout Great Britain. This report is based on a very comprehensive examination of the whole problem. I think my right hon. Friend ought to give attention to his own Committee's Report.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Wintringham Mrs Margaret Wintringham , Louth Borough

May I ask the Government if they will give an opportunity, before very long, for a more lengthy discussion on this very important question? Women all over the country feel the importance of maintaining these women patrols and their preventive work. It will be a great drawback to social progress if they be withdrawn, and I therefore press the Government to afford a fuller opportunity for discussing this subject before a final decision be taken.

Sir J. D. REES:

Surely if there be any economy for which this country might cry out, it is the determination of this fantastic and expensive piece of feminism. It is impossible by practical enquiry to find out what duties are done by these women perambulating the parts in unbecoming and expensive uniforms, but with no powers whatever. We have never discovered what is at the bottom of this force or what duties they can perform, having no powers. But we do know that they cost £29,000 and that that sum can be saved. If we do not save it we may as well scrap the whole Geddes Report.