Orders of the Day — Police (Appeals) Bill

– in the House of Commons on 19th January 1943.

Alert me about debates like this

Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

It will be remembered that in the Debate on the Defence Regulations which dealt with powers given to the Home Secretary to amalgamate police forces under certain conditions, the point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Collindridge) as to the difference in the system of police discipline in boroughs where watch committees obtain and in counties where the police are under a standing joint committee. I said that I would consider the point. The argument of my hon. Friend was that where a borough police force is amalgamated with a county police force the right of a constable to be dealt with on a disciplinary offence by the watch committee would cease and he would be subject directly to the chief constable as the disciplinary authority, and, therefore, his position would be worsened. I have considered that point. Indeed, I said at the time that if the proposal which I had in mind and which I indicated to the House proved to be not controversial, I would take steps to deal with it by legislation. The House gave every indication that it was friendly to the proposal which I made in response to the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley. The result is the production of this Bill, the Second Reading of which I am moving not only for myself but for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, because the Bill will apply to the Scottish forces as well.

The watch committee is the disciplinary authority in the borough and the chief constable in county. The position in Scotland is like that in the counties—with the exception of Glasgow, where the discipline of the most senior ranks is in the hands of the magistrates. The situation is that a constable has no right of appeal to the Secretary of State in either England or Wales or Scotland unless he is dismissed from the force or is required to resign. If he is reduced in rank or reduced in pay there is no appeal from the watch committee or the chief constable. Nor is there any appeal, and I do not propose that there should be, in the case of minor penalties such as fines. It was the view of the House, and it is certainly mine, that this state of affairs is rather hard on the policeman. I was anxious to do something about it if there was general agreement by extending the right of appeal against reduction in rank or in rate of pay. The House having indicated its warm agreement with that course, this Bill was prepared. It is little more than a drafting Measure making amendments to the Police Appeals Act, 1927, in order to meet the points I have mentioned. The Bill is clearly explained by the long Title which is set out at the beginning.

The question is whether it is desirable that an appeal to the Secretary of State should be given in these further cases. A reduction in rank is a severe happening to any policeman. It means, of course, that he loses money, but it means also that there is a blot on his copybook, that there is a bad mark in his record and that his status in the service materially falls. Consequently it is a matter of great gravity if an officer is reduced in rank, although there clearly are cases where a reduction properly takes place. Nevertheless, I feel, and I think the House will agree, that where a reduction in rank is enforced by a chief constable in a county or a watch committee in a borough it is right and reasonable—without making any reflection on the committees or the chief constables, which I do not wish to do—that there should be a right of appeal to the Seceretary of State by the policeman concerned.

The other penalty is a reduction in rate of pay which can be of a fairly substantial amount. While that penalty is not so severe as reduction in rank, it can be financially severe, and the right of appeal should be extended in that case as well. That is the proposal in the Bill which the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself propose should obtain throughout the whole of Great Britain. The Bill is also supported by the County and Borough Chief Constables Associations in England and Wales. They have accepted it and are agreeable about it. It is accepted by the rank and file of the English and Welsh police forces through the Police Federation. It is also supported, although they might like to go further, by the Scottish Police Federation and to some extent by the Scottish Chief Constables Association. The Bill applies to the whole of the police service—the Metropolitan Police, the police of the City of London, and all the county and borough police forces of England, Scotland and Wales.

Among the advantages of this system of appeal there is the point that it tends to set up some measure of uniformity of treatment as the result of experience, because the Home Secretary must administer appeals on a level footing. The consequence is that doctrine and experience will emerge which will guide the Home Office and the local police authorities as to the kind of standard which they should apply in these cases. There may be and sometimes are instances where in the Home Secretary's view the watch committee or the chief constable may have made an error of judgment in the award of punishment, and so far as that occurs a correction can be made. But this Bill is not proposed because of any widespread opposition to the disciplinary functions of chief constables and watch committees; it is proposed on the grounds of elementary justice to the rank and file of the police.

I think it will be helpful to discipline because if the system of discipline is fair and equitable and reasonably level that in itself is helpful to discipline. The discipline of the police force is of the greatest importance. It is of profound importance not only to police organisation but to the relationship between the police and the public. We have every reason to be appreciative of the very fine and high standard of discipline that exists in the police forces of this country. But discipline is good in itself, good for the self respect of the service, and I think this Bill does nothing to damage discipline but, on the contrary, will assist it.

I do not expect a flood of appeals as a consequence of this Bill. Although the Police Appeal Act was passed in 1927 it is interesting to record that there have been only about 200 appeals against the decisions of watch committees and chief constables. The procedure in appeals against dismissal or enforced resignation is this: There can be a decision by the Secretary of State himself, on his own responsibility, in simple cases, in the light of the facts put before him; or he may appoint, and often does appoint, a tribunal of inquiry which must include a person experienced in police administration, and in the more difficult cases includes an experienced lawyer of standing. That course will continue to be adopted in appropriate cases. There is power to increase the penalty, which I think is right. It is right that the Secretary of State should be free on appeal to increase, decrease, modify or eliminate the penalty altogether, or to uphold the decision of the disciplinary authority. I think there must be a power of variation upwards or downwards, first as a safeguard against frivolous appeals which might be brought if there were no risk of losing anything, and, secondly, because it will enable the Secretary of State to deal with cases where the facts lead him to take a more serious view than was taken by the disciplinary authority.

The point may be raised whether a right of appeal ought not to extend to lesser penalties, for example, a fine. If we went to that extent we should, I think, overburden the State machine with things that ought not to come to it. It would be a great pity if the Secretary of State had gravely to consider the question of a half-crown fine, or even a heavier fine, and I do not think it is necessary that he should have to do so. I did consider whether one could set a limit to the fine below which there could be no appeal to the Secretary of State and above which there could be, but I rejected that on the ground that there might be a temptation to the authorities to have regard to that figure of demarcation which would determine whether the case could go to the Secretary of State or not. I think we had better leave the position as it is.

There is one other point to which I should like to refer; we have in the police force to-day not only the regular police but a certain number of full-time special constables and the police war reserve. These officers of the auxiliary police have an association of their own called the Auxiliary Police Association, and they have made representations asking that the proposals should be made applicable to them, in principle, as they apply to the regular police. The present position is that the auxiliary police have no appeal against a decision of a chief constable on any ground, not even dismissal. I propose to give them the right of appeal in the case of dismissal or of reduction in pay. The issue of reduction in rank does not arise, because there is only one rank among them, and they cannot therefore be reduced in rank. I propose to apply in principle to the auxiliary police the same considerations that I am applying in the Bill to the regular police, but it can be done quite conveniently by a Defence Regulation, and is better dealt with in that way, because the auxiliary police are essentially a war-time organisation. These matters may not be so serious to them, because they are not going to be policemen for life generally speaking. Dismissal from the police force is not the end of their life's career. Nevertheless, dismissal is a serious matter, and a reduction in pay may also be a very serious matter, and therefore, if the House concurs, I propose to deal with the position by Defence Regulation.

I have explained the purpose of the Bill, and I will only say in conclusion that I know the House takes a great interest in the welfare as well as in the efficiency and the discipline of the police forces of the country. I think I can say, not only for myself but for Parliament, that we have the highest regard for the ability, the honesty, and the high standard of discipline of the police forces of our country. The British police are a highly popular institution, and all of us in Parliament very much respect their work, and we have every reason, as the result of air attacks and war-time experiences, to respect the police even more than we did before the war. I am sure that I shall carry hon. Members with me in that statement. Having explained the Bill, which is of a very simple character, I commend it to the favourable consideration of the House and ask hon. Members to give it a Second Reading.

Photo of Dr William Thomas Dr William Thomas , Southampton

If the right hon. Gentleman is going to provide for the penalty to be increased on appeal to himself, does he not think that that may deter constables from appealing, because they may feel that though they are suffering under an injustice an appeal would be hardly worth while if there was risk of an increase in the punishment? Does he not consider that the matter should go first to the watch committee or to the standing joint committee and then as an appeal to himself?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I have considered that point. There is nothing new about this proposal. As my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General will agree, it has been a feature of the procedure in the Court of Criminal Appeal for 35 years. When a person appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeal he runs that risk.

Photo of Dr William Thomas Dr William Thomas , Southampton

But he does not go to the Criminal Court of Appeal at once: he is first prosecuted before a lower court.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

If the hon. Member is going to introduce as many stages as possible in this painful process, he can do so, but I do not think it would be a good thing. We must have this provision for two reasons. First, the local authority may itself be lax in its discipline. Let us not forget that there is a danger of under-enforcing discipline as well as of over-enforcing it. That must be kept in mind. Secondly, I want a policeman before he puts this rather high-powered machine of the Secretary of State in action—possibly involving a local inquiry—to think carefully whether he is doing right or wrong. He must weigh up the question of whether he is likely to get something or whether there is a risk of losing. Between those two considerations I think he will take a balanced view on the question of whether to appeal or not.

Mr. Amman:

I think it is not inappropriate to point out that we have here another instance of somewhat express legislation. In the case of the previous Bill we were told that it was as recently as September last that a Question was asked in the House which gave rise to that Bill, which has now passed its Second Reading; and I understand that in the case of the Bill now before us progress was even more rapid, because it is since September that my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Collindridge) asked the Question which has now resulted in the appearance of this Bill. I congratulate both the Ministers on their expedition. The Bill is small, but is of tremendous importance to the persons concerned. I find it a rather curious full turn of the wheel that the accident of events should have put me into this position this afternoon. The Bill takes my mind back to the trouble we had with the police during the last war, when members of that body sat on the wall of 10, Downing Street, and serenaded the right hon. Gentleman whom we felicitated this afternoon on having reached his 80th birthday. Out of that position grew the police organisation. I mention all this only because I had the privilege of being the first treasurer of the Police and Prison Officers' Union, which was then formed. It was dangerous for them to organise, and events have since proved the wisdom of having collective representation even within Government departments. The State and the Department have had much advantage thereby.

The Bill brings the police into full line now with the Civil Service. I remember going through this phase in another Department of the public service in order to win the right of appeal to the head of the Department. That right was conceded after a very brief struggle, incidentally, I may say, arising out of the fact that I myself was suspended from that service for venturing to appeal to the head of the service. I brought the whole matter to the struggle which resulted in that right being conceded. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is not a little mistaken in the reply which he gave a short time ago. I imagine that in any case, before the appeal comes about, a man will have protested to his immediate chiefs and will have found out whether the decision is likely to be revoked before he goes a step further. This is done now right throughout the Service. I welcome the Bill because it puts the finishing touch to the right of appeal that these men have, about everything which is not a matter of ordinary routine discipline. On matters of major importance they have the right to carry the appeal to their chief. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman did not give way to his impulse to consider placing a demarcation as to the amount of the fine, because I do not think the men are so much concerned about the amount of money they have to pay, as about what a fine means to their escutcheon or their record. When the first flush of this legislation has gone, I do not imagine that appeals will be so many as to overwhelm the Home Office. We cannot now discuss the position of the auxiliary police, as it has no relation to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman should, however, be congratulated on his wisdom and his liberality of outlook in regard to these matters.

We are doing a simple act of duty in this connection. We demand a very high standard of conduct and discipline from our police, force, and it is fair that there should be an equally high standard of defence for a man who may fall into trouble for excess use of his duty. Such cases may not be serious enough for dismissal or to affect promotion, but to a certain extent they will affect a man's personal prestige. In small boroughs or districts, the fact that a man may have fallen into disfavour may have serious results for him, and if he has cause for appeal the Bill gives him a fair chance to make his position clear. From that standpoint we are justified by the fact that our police are accepted all over the world as a standard to which most people look up with pride. At the same time, the foundation of good discipline is confidence in the disciplinary machine. If a man should fall into difficulty he must know he has a right to fair dealing and fair consideration. He must not only feel that justice has been done, but must know that he has every opportunity to secure justice. To secure that end is worth the passing of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Cyril Culverwell Mr Cyril Culverwell , Bristol West

I do not wish to make a speech but only to ask a question of the Home Secretary. I do not know what authorities or organisations he consulted before bringing forward the Bill, but I understand that the Association of Municipal Corporations does not consider the Bill necessary so far as their boroughs are concerned, because constables there have a right of appeal to the watch committees. They urge the Minister to take steps on the lines of the recommendations of the Select Committee of 1932, in view of the fact that he has just taken power to amalgamate police authorities. The Select Committee recommended that the right of appeal should be given in any case where the police force of a borough is merged into that of a county, and that all members of a county force should have a right of appeal, against the decision of the chief constables in matters of discipline, to the standing joint committee or the sub-committee appointed by that body for the purpose. The right hon. Gentleman is doing something which the association do not consider necessary. They regard the adoption of the Select Committee's recommendation as urgently necessary now, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can do something to fulfil the recommendations in that respect.

Photo of Mr Frank Collindridge Mr Frank Collindridge , Barnsley

I congratulate the Home Secretary upon the speedy introduction of the Bill. We had a Debate on 14th October, and I appreciate him and his Department in carrying out the promise and pledge given in so recent a Debate, particularly in the stress of these days. It must have given some concern to him and to the Department. It is good to hear of this Measure to bring into effect the mergers proposed in the Debate of 14th October. In that Debate, the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to promise that discussion should take place, before the actual mergers, with parties concerned, and he has done so. It is good also that the minds of our police are to be set at rest by the proposals of the Bill.

I want to say a word upon the main purport of the Bill. We are proposing to give to our county or borough police, whether merged or not, a right of appeal when they are punished by reductions of rank or rate of pay on the lines of the Police Appeals Act, 1927. This is all to the good and will be generally welcomed, but particularly by police in county areas. Hitherto there has been the very anomalous position, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, that in the case of any disciplinary action taken against a policeman in a borough force the power and authority are vested in the watch committee. Any member of the force aggrieved by any disciplinary action taken by the chief constable has the right to appear before the watch committee, but in a county police force the position has been different. While I share the view of the right hon. Gentleman that we have not been subject in this matter to many appeals since the Act of 1927, at the same time there has always been the point that an anomaly of the kind I have quoted now could not continue. In a county police force, as we know, disciplinary power is vested in the chief constable, and from an award by him there is no appeal except to the Secretary of State, and then only when a man is dismissed or required to resign. Why this anomaly has existed so long I frankly cannot say. I am fully conscious that this right of appeal is valued by the police in the boroughs, and it is the envy and desire always of the men in the counties. It has not been unduly exploited, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, where the right exists, but, because it has existed, it is felt that the restraining effect produced on those in whom authority is vested has been all to the good. Had the Home Secretary not come forward with this Bill, we would in some cases have been taking advantage of some of our police in merged districts. These are not the days, if ever there were days, when rights of this kind should be lost to anybody. I feel sure that sentiment particularly applies to our police.

With others, I welcome this present appeal in principle even though I do not agree with all the steps that are to be taken, because it occurs to me that we are still not to give the full status quo to the police who are in some districts to be merged under the proposals of 14th October. Take the case of a county borough going, by merger, under a county area. Hitherto police in a borough have had full right of appeal with access to the watch committee. When the mergers take place the former borough police will receive in exchange for their lost right of appeal to the watch committee, the right of appeal on certain disciplinary awards made against them to the Home Secretary. I have the utmost respect for the Home Secretary, and on a majority of occasions I would accept his very good sound judgment, but because I know that in the busy office he has he will have to be advised by his Home Office Department, and with no disrespect at all to that body, I doubt whether this substitution for our present watch committee consideration is an adequate return. The watch committee institution has been well tried over a long period in the past, and I believe has proved effective. They know the local circumstances on matters of this description which we are now discussing, I believe, far better than the people, say, in Whitehall can ever hope to do.

This present Bill, which I welcome as a step in the right direction, while it gives something in place of what the merged policeman of the borough loses, does not give to him what he has lost. It may be said that the Bill gives to the absorbing authority and to all police in the country the right of appeal already in the 1927 Act, but I think that this will not be convincing to the people in the borough who have their watch committee rights taken away. I think that perhaps the best policy to have adopted, particularly considering the times we are in, would have been to have acted in a big way and to have accepted the idea of the Select Committee of 1932 and granted the right of appeal, as enjoyed by county boroughs. This Committee made the recommendation in 1932, over 10 years ago, and surely we should have taken some steps along the progressive road even so far as it concerns new liberties.

I want to raise one or two issues, and I would be glad to have the views of my right hon. Friend on these matters. Are we to understand that the right of appeal to the Home Office is limited to certain offences and that thereby certain disciplinary awards will be taken? I wonder whether my right hon. Friend, in the survey which he gave concerning fines—he put it in very choice language—was seized by the full import of what these fines can amount to, and these fines when imposed will not be subject to right of appeal. Under Police Regulation 21 there are eight types of punishment for offences: First, dismissal; second, being required to resign forthwith or at such date as may be ordered; third, reduction in rank; fourth, reduction in rate of pay; fifth, forfeiture of merit conduct badges except such as have been granted for acts of courage or bravery; sixth, fine; seventh, reprimand; eighth, caution. The constable under fine may be punished by rate of pay, by one or more increments up to a period of 52 weeks. Constables subject to the reduction of one increment for 12 months may pay, say, under Scale A, up to £5 4s., and £6 10s. under Scale B. On the other hand, the constable may at the top rate be fined an amount not exceeding seven days' pay. The important point I want to get over for my right hon. Friend's consideration is this, that though a constable may be indicted for one offence, it may be that one, two, or even three types of punishment may be meted out to him for this one offence. I would make a suggestion with regard to these fines, which may be in their accumulation fairly large sums, spread over, say, 52 weeks and when they are accompanied with loss of special increment advances and also certain pension payments. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will accept the appeal I now make that fines, say, of the magnitude of 20s. or more might be the subject of a right of appeal to him for future consideration.

On this matter of loss of pay and promotion and of the effect on future pension, it may be said that the effect will be small; but I have gone into this question with friends who are likely to be affected, and I assure my right hon. Friend the police fear the effect of fines without right of appeal. This body of men is worthy of the fullest consideration we can give. They are as liberty-loving as any of us. While perhaps the withholding of certain rights will not make them falter in their duty to the nation, I am certain it will affect their pride. How can we ask them, among their multifarious duties, to discover and bring to justice the wrongdoer, and having done so then the offender against the community shall be given the right of appeal, while the custodians of law and order are denied that elementary right in matters which directly concern them? In time past the right of appeal has not been unduly exploited. It is an admirable safety-valve. It was never good for authority to be vested in one individual, as is more clearly shown today than at any other time. I am not unaware of the Home Secretary's desire to get this Bill through with as little controversy as possible. Some people, perhaps in the seats of authority, will not welcome the democratic idea of the Bill, but I think the overwhelming majority in the country will accept its good intention.

I have seen, in my own industrial district and in others, an amazing change in the public attitude towards the police. There is a tendency now to regard the police as 100 per cent. servants of the whole community. There was a movement towards such an attitude before the war, and the national emergency has completed it. We have seen our police during enemy attack not merely keeping order, but taking charge often and co-ordinating the work of the various Civil Defence organisations. If incendiary bombs fall the police must help to put them out, and they must assist in lessening the extent of damage. In many less populous districts the police force has been the real core of our Civil Defence. The members of the Civil Defence services often look to them for guidance and leadership.

I congratulate the Home Secretary on granting the right which is embodied in the Bill, and I am sure it will not be unduly exploited. I would appeal to those who will be merged from the borough forces to use this legislation, but I do hope that to them, and to all police, there will be granted at some date hot far distant that liberty which hitherto the county borough police have had, of watch committee or standing joint committee consideration accompanied by right of appeal to the Home Secretary.

Photo of Mr William Craven-Ellis Mr William Craven-Ellis , Southampton

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has referred to this as a small Bill. It may be small in respect of the amount of paper it takes up, but it is very far-reaching. It will be recollected that on 14th October we discussed the amalgamation of police forces. It was clearly stated that that was purely a temporary measure, and that it might be discontinued, if this House thought fit, on the termination of the War (Emergency Powers) Act. What we are discussing to-day is not a temporary matter but a permanent one. We want to have some regard to what has prompted this permanence. The amendment to the Police Appeals Act, 1927, will have permanent effect upon a large body of borough police forces which, in all probability, will not be affected by the Regulation. From their point of view alone, I submit, the borough police forces should be kept outside this Act. Those police forces that are not going to be amalgamated are to lose a very great privilege. I regard an appeal to the watch committee as being far more important, from the policeman's point of view, than an appeal to the Home Secretary. I do not see any advantage—I see considerable disadvantage—in making it the responsibility of the policemen to appeal to the central authority. I feel I am interpreting the right hon. Gentleman's intention correctly when I say that he is in favour of central bureaucracy. The Home Secretary's outlook throughout is in favour of central control, and the building up of a bureaucracy which will break the backbone of this country if it goes much farther. I must protest against the rights and privileges of the borough police being taken away and the substitution of a right of appeal to the Home Secretary for the right of appeal to the watch committee. What is the position of these borough police who will be affected by the proposed amalgamation? I believe I am right in saying that there are 18 borough police forces to be affected by this first amalgamation and in which there are probably some 350 to 450 members affected.

Are these men going to enjoy the same rights and privileges which they enjoy now? The answer is definitely in the negative. Therefore, I stress again that the Home Secretary would be well advised to leave the borough police forces alone. I have submitted two grounds upon which I can justify putting that proposal before the Home Secretary. What is the position of the county police? Members of the county police forces have had the right to appeal to their chief constable and I do not consider that that should be the kind of court of decision in any case whether it was a question of pay, discipline or whatever it might be. Therefore, the county police are gaining something by this Bill but I become suspicious. If the Home Secretary feels, as he must do, justified in bringing this Bill forward, then the privileges and rights which have proved to be satisfactory in every respect as far as the borough police forces are concerned should be extended in their entirety to the county police forces.

When we come to the end of the war emergency powers it may well be that this Act will create a state of confusion at the time which will not be beneficial to the police force. There is not a finer body of men in the public service than the members of the police forces of this country. I am very jealous of that position and of the position which they hold not only in the opinion of the people of this country but of the people from overseas who visit this country. I would regret considerably if we did something to-day which might in any way prejudice that position. The Home Secretary made certain promises when he spoke on 14th October, but I wonder whether he has asked himself whether he to-day is implementing what he said on that day in the best way and in the way which will assure the continuance of the efficiency of the police. I do not want to raise the question again as to whether amalgamation is right or wrong, because the House knows my views on that subject, but this is perhaps my last opportunity of recording the necessity of this House adopting very great precautions in what it decides to do as far as the future working and operation of the police is concerned. We are not out in any way to decrease or interfere with their efficiency, and I strongly appeal to the Home Secretary, when we are making a really important decision in passing the Second Reading of this Bill, whether this is the best way of implementing his undertaking of 14th October.

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

I congratulate the Home Secretary upon the step he has taken. It is a very forward step as far as the police are concerned. I may inform the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis) that I have been on both sides of the fence either as poacher or gamekeeper. As far as the county police are concerned, this is a big step forward. When I was brought up I was rather anxious to see things bigger than I really had seen them. I remember that if a policeman in the county offended some county family, the chief constable had no other way but to punish him, to appease some of these people. I remember as a young policeman myself there was once an election, and I was sent for by the chief constable. He said, "You are the only man likely not to keep your mouth shut when the candidates are before us, and you have to answer no questions but a political question. If you do—" and he threatened what he would do. I went into the meeting. It was a double-barrelled constituency, and the first thing I had to do in order to get round the chief constable's corner was to say, "I am speaking through an official muzzle. If I put other than political questions to you, I shall be punished." I asked this question. I said, "If you are returned, will you see that I get the same chance as the county chief constable has in counties in the North of England going round supporting the Conservative candidate?" Believe me, I got round the chief constable all right. It shows the power of the county chief constable.

Let me give an idea of some more of their powers. In one of our big strikes in Durham we had at the head of the county council, fortunately, a man named Peter Lee, a very outstanding man. The chief constable of the county asked that they should have the Navy there to keep the waters clear in the pit and the soldiers to keep order. The chairman of the county council said, "I happen to be the head of this county for the moment. You are going to have no soldiers and no sailors here. I will look after the order of the county." He did. He said, "You put cars at my disposal wherever there is likely to be trouble, and you will send for me and send your area policemen." There was not a single window broken, but if the county chief constable had used the powers he was anxious to use, we would have had no end of trouble with the soldiers and sailors.

Let me deal with an hon. Friend's criticisms about watch committees. There are even watch committees that will accept the word of a chief constable in a borough against the good conduct of the policeman himself, because he is the chief constable. I have been on watch committees for years. The chief constable could recommend so many men for promotion as against the old diabolical system where some watch committee member had to sell goods for a living. There was a rush then by constables looking for promotions to buy articles, whether they needed them or not. You had councillors canvassing influential men to get votes on the watch committee for the particular men who wanted promotion. The watch committees were a good deal more corrupt than the police.

Photo of Mr William Craven-Ellis Mr William Craven-Ellis , Southampton

is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the police are corrupt?

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

I did not say that the police are corrupt as a body, although charges have been made against individual policemen that were justified. I remember the first man I tried to train. We went round trying doors, and when I turned round he was searching a fellow's pockets. I said, "What are you doing?" and he replied, "I thought he might have some good cigars." There was a man who was corrupt from the very beginning, but I did not blame the whole police force. The hon. Member must not charge me with saying that the police are corrupt. They are a fine body of men. In the last 20 years the conditions that have existed between public and the police have advanced beyond the wildest dreams. In colliery villages and towns policemen were once dreaded; to-day they are welcomed. To-day the policeman does everything but midwifery. He is called in to advise upon almost everything, and I can assure the Home Secretary that he has done no better thing in his life than to give everybody an opportunity of appeal past watch committees and chief constables.

Complaints have come to me as a Member of Parliament about the power of chief constables. If a chief constable takes umbrage at a man and fines him, there is often no promotion for him. When he is fined and reduced in rank it does not only affect him for that time; it affects his pension. If a man is reduced from inspector to sergeant and lives 10 years on his pension, some hon. Members may know what he has to pay for his sin. The reason why there have been so few appeals in the last 15 years in county areas is that if a man appealed it was all right, but if the decision went against him the chief constable was still there at the top, and the poor fellow was left at his mercy with a load he could not bear. This is an opportunity for young men to go forward fearlessly for promotion. If some watch committees know that the case they are considering will go to the Home Secretary, they will be more careful in coming to a decision. Watch committees are not quite as popular as many think they are. I do not know the watch committee at Southampton—

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

I should have expected the hon. Member to say that. I can assure him that we have had differences of opinion on our watch committee. Some of these bodies have dreaded the influence of people who were using their power to obtain promotion. Now there is this second court of appeal. A man can appeal to the watch committee and can bring an inspector or superintendent in to give evidence for him if he is not a good speaker, although I have yet to find a policeman who could not adequately defend himself. When the decision has gone against him the man can go to the Home Secretary. He has another court; nothing is taken from him.

I was nervous about the Home Secretary taking over the police, but I can say that as far as courts of appeal are concerned they will be welcomed not only by the police but by the public in general. I have given every encouragement to the maintenance of good relationship between the public and the police. Formerly, the only policemen employed were those with plenty of muscle and strength who could, without any argument, use their force to remove what they thought had to be removed. Now we have an intelligent class of men, brought up cleanly and honourably. It is true that some may go wrong afterwards. I have seen magnificent fellows fail under the temptations that come to a policeman. Nobody who has not been a policeman can know what temptations there are in the police force. In the days when a policeman received £1 4s. 5d. a week and was told to live in a respectable locality and dress his family well, it was difficult to pass on a bookmaker if he came along with a 10s. tip. But now conditions are different; they are second to none in the police forces of the world. If the men do not behave themselves, they deserve all they get. If they refuse to do what is right or are corrupt, then they have no right to be protected, either by the Home Secretary or anybody else. As I have said before, this Bill will be welcomed by the public and the authorities concerned, and I, personally, welcome it because there is this last appeal to the Home Secretary, which I believe is right and proper.

Photo of Mr George Reakes Mr George Reakes , Wallasey

I want to express my regret that the Home Office did not send out a circular to the watch committees in time for them to consider the Bill and, if necessary, to make their representations to the Member of Parliament for the constituency. I am a member of the watch committee for the county borough of Wallasey, and as such I hope I am above suspicion. I was present at their meeting on Thursday when the town clerk read a communication and when it was felt that we had not been treated with the consideration we deserved. Now there is no time for watch committees to pass an opinion on this Bill, and I consider it is treating such committees with scant attention. Let Members of this House remember that watch committees have served the country and its police administration with marked success. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary could not challenge that statement. Furthermore, the right hon. Gentleman has not given us one reason why we should whittle down the powers of watch committees, or one reason why this important matter should be brought up during the war, when it has no relation whatever to the prosecution of the war. What surprises me more than anything else is that the Measure is to be a permanent feature of police administration. I would have hesitated to have intervened in the Debate if the Home Secretary had decided to make the Bill a war-time Measure, as in the case of the amalgamation of police forces.

This Bill is to be passed to-day by a House of Commons far too old, from the point of view of the last election, to deal with these drastic Measures. The Bill will tie the hands of future legislators on a matter of supreme importance. I agree with the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis) that the Measure is an important step in the direction of the central control of the police forces of the country. I can see that sticking out a mile. It is a Whitehall dream to nationalise the police forces and do away with local authorities' powers in the administration of the local police forces. I say that is entirely unfair, and I claim the right, having been a member of a watch committee for nearly 10 years, to object to the methods adopted in this matter. If it could be proved that the war effort needed this Bill, I would not say another word, but I suggest the least that can be done is that the operation of the Bill should be restricted to the war-time period only and that it should come up for reconsideration when the police administration policy of the future is under consideration by the House. It should be remembered that all the standing committees of local government have a direct relationship with the people. It is the people who elect town councillors and it is the town councillors who, under the Local Government Act, set up these important standing committees. Once a Measure such as this has undermined the influence of an important standing committee such as the watch committee, we shall find similar things happening with regard to education, and we shall see the President of the Board of Education setting up some sort of machinery to give Whitehall a greater grip on the educational administration of local areas.

I suggest with all sincerity that the House is taking too much upon itself with regard to legislation which has no relation to the war effort. It is grossly unfair. This is a highly controversial matter. The policemen in the districts will not welcome this Bill. I am not concerned about the defects of the watch committees. Of course, they are not perfect. What municipal body or standing committee is perfect? What body of men in this country is perfect? There is none that is perfect, but we never quote their imperfections as an excuse for changing our system of government or for setting up new principles which will be quoted as a precedent. I sincerely hope the Home Secretary will reconsider the matter. I want to be helpful, but in this particular matter I hope the Measure will not be made a permanent feature of police administration, and that we shall not tie the hands of a future elected House of Commons in dealing with this and other matters which will of necessity come up for review at the end of hostilities. [Interruption.] It is pretty vague to me what they lose in the matter of appeals, but, when they are made, they are not final, though we are the judges of local conditions and the local circumstances prevailing. I quite understand the interruption, and it is possible that I have not a proper grip of the thing owing to the fact that the Home Office did not send out the information to watch committee members in time for us to give it consideration.

Photo of Sir Herbert Butcher Sir Herbert Butcher , Holland with Boston

I think some of us have tended to forget that the Home Secretary's proposals of 14th October did not cover the police forces as a whole, because he stated that amalgamations would only take place where military necessity arose, and I feel that, if it were necessary to bring in a Bill amending the Police Act, 1927, hurried legislation is rarely wise, and I cannot see any ground for congratulation to the Home Secretary on this. If it was decided to bring in legislation, the greatest consideration and forethought should have been given, and the right hon. Gentleman should have borne in mind not only the promise he himself gave but also the recommendation of the Select Committee in 1932 that there should be in the case of joint police bodies and county police forces something similar to the watch committees and standing joint committees, and that a right of appeal should lie to them. The tribute that the right hon. Gentleman very properly paid to the police forces was earned by them under the system that he is now trying to alter and adjust on the ground of war-time necessity.

I was not able to take part in the Debate in October, but I feel that an attempt is being made by the Home Office to force through, under this disguise and on the excuse of the nation's need in war-time, some policy on which they have set their hearts for a long time. There is no doubt in my mind either that in the Home Secretary they found a bosom friend. I believe he has not a great deal of faith in the ability of small local authorities. Having served on a large authority, he is perhaps prepared to allow them a greater measure of virtue, but small authorities are not to be treated with respect. Their views are not to be considered, and rarely are they to be consulted. He gave a list of authorities who approved and some who approved with reservations, but he was discreetly silent on those who disapproved and other bodies which should have been, but were not, consulted. I think it is right that the police should have a right of appeal from the watch committee or the the standing joint committee. What kind of appeal ought they to have? Will it be against the justice of their sentence, the justice of their punishment, or the amount of it? To certain men it is a greater hardship to be fined half a crown when they do not consider it is right than to degrade a man and punish him severely for an offence which he admits he has committed.

Therefore, if we are to have, as we should have, a right of appeal, it should be as the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Collindridge) said, a right of appeal, on all questions of justice, not only whether a man has been properly punished but whether he should be punished at all for an offence if it has been committed. If we widen the field to that extent, I do not think the Secretary of State is the right person to exercise the function. He is the Poo Bah of the Government. I do not trust him, but whether that is due to his record before he joined the Government or his record since, I do not know. I have never been able to make up my mind. Already his desk is cluttered with appeals under Regulation 18B in connection with which he has the services of an advisory tribunal, whose advice he equally neglects or reverses. We learn that in certain cases of police appeals he may be assisted by a tribunal on which will be somebody of experience in police administration and a lawyer. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend, whom we congratulate on his recent honour, will give a definite assurance that this Home Secretary, who will not accept the advice of the tribunal in connection with 18B, proposes to be guided by the tribunal which will deal with police appeals? It is a simple assurance to ask for because the Home Secretary said that appeals in simple cases could be dealt with direct by him.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Home Secretary has that power already vested in him?

Photo of Sir Herbert Butcher Sir Herbert Butcher , Holland with Boston

I am only asking for information and for an assurance. I want to know whether, if the Home Secretary refers these appeals to a tribunal, he will be bound by its advice. If he will not be bound, I do not think an appeal to the Home Secretary is of any value. If he is to be bound by it, it will be better, rather than impose additional work on him, to set up a police board or Commission to deal with the appeals. There is no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman is overworked. Before he was promoted to the War Cabinet, he had two Parliamentary Secretaries to assist him—the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security and the Under-Secretary to the Home Department—and he himself was engaged in the work of these two Departments. Now there is a Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security short, and my right hon. Friend has entered the War Cabinet, with all that that involves, and on top of that he is enlarging the field of appeal work which he is undertaking. I bear in mind two words which he said. He said that some doctrine of experience will emerge, just as Common Law has emerged, and I think that is a wise and sensible expectation, but perhaps he will agree with me that the person or body from whose decisions this doctrine of experience emerges should be able to devote ample time to the consideration of all the facts of the case, and that it should not come from an overworked Minister who is also a member of the War Cabinet. My own feeling is, as the Home Secretary himself said, that this is rather a high-powered machine to put into gear.

I shall not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, but I think that it has been hurriedly drawn and not very well drawn, and that it would have been very much better if, instead of rushing in with this Bill, the Home Secretary had gone to the pigeon-holes of the Home Office, got out the Report of 1932, considered how many of the recommendations would be appropriate at the present time, and put those into force. That would have been preferable to this step which, after all, only enlarges the burden on his shoulders and does not give a man a right of appeal as to the justice of any punishment which has been inflicted upon him but only an appeal against the scale of punishment which he has received.

Photo of Mr Thomas Naylor Mr Thomas Naylor , Southwark South East

I do not think the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Reakes) is quite justified in the criticism he made of the right hon. Gentleman for introducing this Bill. Surely he understands that this is not the initial legislation dealing with this subject, but is only concerned with making certain changes in an Act of Parliament passed in 1927, of which the police rank and file heartily approve. It is no question of rushing into legislation. Because an hon. Member disagrees with the terms of a Bill that does not give him any right to suggest that there is no justification for such a Bill, and at the risk of having my remarks regarded as redundant, I would like to add my commendation to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for having introduced it. It has been said that the police force in this country is a fine body of men, and I heartily agree. When foreigners come here and visit the capital, it is common for them to remark upon the efficiency of our police. They say, "Your police are wonderful." It is only right that if the rank and file of the police feel they have a grievance arising out of the fact that a certain Act does not go far enough in rectifying their grievances they should expect that the chief of the Home Office, whoever he may be, should take steps to deal with the position. I can assure the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) that as far as I can see there is no desire on the part of the Home Office to obtain even more power than it already possesses. I am sure that the Home Secretary will agree that he would be only too pleased to surrender some of the duties which he now has to perform.

He cannot be anxious to acquire more duties than he already has to discharge. We know that our police are an efficient body, but until recent years they had no means of expressing their grievances. A police trade union was formed and, in the Parliament presided over as Prime Minister by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, an attempt was made to obtain reinstatement in the Force for some of the men who had been discharged. It is a matter of regret to hon. Members on this side of the House that that measure of justice was not accorded to the victims of the police officers' strike in the twenties.

On one statement made by the Home Secretary in introducing the Bill, I should like a little further explanation. He said it would not be right that a man who had been fined 2s. 6d. should have a right of appeal to so high an authority as the Home Office. It may seem insignificant that a police officer should be fined half-a-crown for a minor offence and should want to trouble the Home Office on appeal against that fine, but I want the Home Secretary to bear in mind that it is not so much a desire to get the half-crown back that would make such a police officer appeal. He would appeal against the conviction and not because of the half-crown. Whether the fine be half-a-crown or half-a-guinea, it is important that the officer should have the same right in each instance to protest against the judgment that places a stigma upon his service in the Force. I hope that the Home Secretary will note this point with a view to leaving the door quite open to any sort of appeal coming from a police officer.

In reading the Bill, I do not find any exception made or limit drawn as to the kind of appeal that will or will not be considered by the Home Secretary. It seems that the Bill gives to the police force in regard to minor offences the right which they now have with regard to major offences. Seeing that the incidence of fines, and the offences represented by the smaller fines, are just as likely to be misunderstood by those who inflict the penalty as are those involving much higher fines and much more serious punishment, I hope, if the Home Secretary intends to issue Regulations imposing limits of this character, he will pay heed to what I say, that it is the stigma and not the amount of the fine against which a man appeals. I suggest that the Home Secretary takes no notice of what has been said against the Bill from other quarters. It seems that hon. Members have spoken against the Bill rather because it happens to be a Labour Home Secretary who has introduced it, but I want to draw attention to the fact that the Bill is simply a continuation of legislation that has previously been passed by the House and that the most vivid imagination could not describe it as rush legislation, introduced during a war, to be withdrawn when the war is over. I cannot subscribe to that point of view and I hope that the House will not subscribe to it.

Photo of Major John Mills Major John Mills , New Forest and Christchurch

I should like to intervene to say that I think the Bill is not only short, but very simple. I entirely agree with what was said by the hon. Member who has just spoken that there is no need for the Home Secretary to take undue notice of what has been said by speakers against the Bill. I would like to congratulate the Home Secretary on having found time, in spite of his war preoccupations, to introduce this Bill. It seems to me a very democratic matter to extend the right of appeal for the police, and it is a matter for congratulation and not the reverse. I have been a member of a standing joint committee for 30 years, and chairman, I think, for 15. Personally, I am extremely glad that the right of appeal in this matter is not to the standing joint committee, but to the Home Secretary. I feel it is much more satisfactory for the police constable who is appealing to feel that he will get the most impartial outside consideration and that the committee to whom he might otherwise be appealing will not be prejudiced against him, because they are naturally in very much closer touch with the chief constable than they can be with any individual constable or officer in the force.

I cannot see the danger that some Members see in this Bill, and I think it would be extremely pointless to make it a wartime Measure only. It should be a permanent one. The hon. Member for, I think, the Holland Division (Mr. Butcher), appeared to distrust and dislike the Bill because he distrusted the Home Secretary personally, but I am confident that the Home Secretary in the discharge of his great office will rise superior to any feelings of partiality and be the best possible referee in any dispute that may arise. I have never been a member of a watch committee, but I should have thought that just as I prefer that the standing joint committee should not have to be the judge in a matter of discipline between the chief constable and constables, it would be far better both for the chief constable in a borough force and for an officer in it that an appeal should be to as remote a body and person as possible, so that there might not be any suspicion that anybody is going to take one side or the other. I think the more remote the body the better, and I would therefore very much like to congratulate briefly the Home Secretary on introducing the Bill.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

I would not have intervened except for two references, the first one from the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher). He deplored the fact we had a dishonest Home Secretary.

Photo of Sir Herbert Butcher Sir Herbert Butcher , Holland with Boston

On a point of Order. It will be within the recollection of the House, and I am sure my hon. Friend opposite will agree on reflection, that the word "dishonest" was in no way in my mind, or used by me. I may use other words about the Home Secretary.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

It was knowing the value of other words that I put what was in the hon. and gallant Member's mind into this language. [An HON. MEMBER: "Withdraw."] Withdraw what? Ask the hon. Member to withdraw.

Photo of Sir Herbert Butcher Sir Herbert Butcher , Holland with Boston

I rise on a point of Order. When the hon. Member said I suggested that the Home Secretary was dishonest I rose in my place and said that I did not use that word and that it was within the recollection of the House. The hon. Member said he was using words that were in my mind. I ask for your guidance and protection, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I never heard the hon. Member use that word. If I had, I should have called him to order at once.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

I have no need to retract anything I have said. I have only put into plain English the meaning of a word or words used by an hon. Member in exercising his right to speak in the House. The words used by the hon. Gentleman were these—that he Would hot trust the Home Secretary. I do not know whether trusting implies honesty or dishonesty in regard to the exercise of the right hon. Gentleman's duties. It is clear what is meant by referring to sending someone to be the judge, that the Government have found practically the right man to do this dirty job: that it was not a war-time Measure, and was not necessary. Then we had the hon. Member from Wallasey (Mr. Reakes) speaking of the rights and prerogatives which must be exercised by a watch committee. What wonderful bodies the watch committees of this country are taken to be, and how great are the people who are members of them, that they should exercise powers from which there is no appeal. Coming from the other side of the Mersey from Wallasey, I would point out when the people on the watch committees are spoken of as being elected, that we who live in a city have no power over them. People in a city may be placed on a watch committee by their parties, and when they have given a decision we have the minutes of the watch committee presented to the city council and carried in a few moments, and we cannot comment upon them. As we have no power over the committee, what right there is to bring the minutes before the city council, I do not know. If we say anything we are told to sit down. I happen to have been a member of a watch committee, and I do not like to see any autocratic body having absolute rights over the lives of people, any more than I would like to see a magistrate decide a case without there being any right of appeal. One knows that, even as it is, once a person has been wrongly convicted it is very hard to get the decision put right.

I am not going to eulogise the police. There are good and bad members of it, just as there are in every walk of life, and that applies both to the Liverpool side and to the Wallasey side of the Mersey. I have a knowledge of both sides, and I am impartial. This is a grand opportunity for people in any city to have things done in a fairly honest, straightforward, upright manner. It gives an opportunity to anyone who thinks he has a grievance, as a member of a police force, to appeal to Caesar. It is not a question of whether it is a corrupt Caesar or not. It does not follow that because you are speaking from the Chair of Peter you are a saint, but you can give right decisions. An appeal to some authority outside the locality would be an act of justice to the man. He would feel that he was being well served. An appeal coming from the City of Liverpool, or perhaps the more reputable quarter of Wallasey, would enable one to get a matter before the Home Office, and someone besides the Home Secretary would go into the merits or demerits of the case. There would be an inquiry. I am convinced that when a man has a case to bring forward he feels he is being honestly dealt with by such procedure. There have been men in my experience, policemen, sergeants and inspectors, who, because they dare not say anything, have had to keep their mouths shut until the end of their days.

I do not consider that a watch committee should have power to say that their word is final and that there is no appeal. Wherever you allow the finality of authority to be vested in one particular body you make for corruption. It is better that a wider appeal should be given so that cases could be inquired into. Why have we a Court of Appeal? It is because we believe that when a case goes before it, it is dealt with impartially. I do not think that we have got that in some cases locally, and I feel that the Bill removes an anomaly that ought to be removed. If it would help to remove the anomaly of the autocratic power of watch committees, I would be better pleased. If the Home Secretary would bring in a Bill to deal with watch committees and decide their powers, and allow the body of a local council to deal with such matters, I would be better pleased that justice would be done all round.

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

On the whole, this Bill has had a favourable reception, but I think I ought to reply briefly to three or four of the main criticisms which have been made. May I in the first instance clear away the misconception which has been apparent in two or three of the speeches? It has been stated by more than one hon. Member that at present the police constable in a borough force has the right of appeal to the watch committee. That is not an actual statement of the position. The true position is that whereas in the county force the chief constable is the disciplinary authority, in the borough force the disciplinary authority is the watch committee itself. It is a question of the powers being separated in the establishment of the borough police, whereas in the county forces the executive power and the disciplinary power are both combined in the person of the chief constable.

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

My right hon. Friend in introducing the Bill said, I think, that the same position does hold in Scotland except in the City of Glasgow. In all cases except in that city the chief constable is the disciplinary authority.

That being the case, this Bill takes nothing away from the powers of watch committees. The hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Reakes) was rather indignant. He said that we were not treating watch committees with the consideration they deserved and that we were undermining their influence. This Bill takes nothing at all away from the present powers of watch committees. What it does is to give the right of appeal to the Home Secretary from the decision of a watch committee. I have never heard of a court which had the slightest confidence in the fairness of its own judgment objecting to the power of appeal being granted from those judgments. When the Court of Criminal Appeal was first established—I think it was in 1908—its establishment was not only welcomed by Judges of the High Court, but they actually took a large part in promoting the establishment of this Court of Appeal because they thought an additional safeguard was necessary and desirable. I therefore cannot for one moment understand the attitude of watch committees in saying that their feelings are hurt or that their influence is being undermined because the right of appeal from their decisions is being granted in certain cases.

The hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Collindridge), in his speech on 14th October on the Defence Regulations providing for the amalgamation of police forces, seemed very keen on a proposal of this kind, and, although he is to some extent one of the godfathers of the present Bill, he seemed to me to-day to be a little ashamed of his relationship to it.

Photo of Mr Frank Collindridge Mr Frank Collindridge , Barnsley

The right hon. Gentleman is incorrect in describing me thus. I welcome this Bill, but a merged borough policeman will lose his opportunity of having his case tried by his watch committee. He has now only the right of appeal to the Home Secretary, and that is not an adequate return for what he loses. I may be one of the godfathers, but I do not like the stepchild.

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, and I am glad to hear his assurance that he welcomes the Bill. But I think he thought we ought to give even wider power of appeal than we, in fact, are doing, and I think he desired that even small fines imposed by chief constables should become subject to a possible appeal to the Home Secretary. My right hon. Friend answered that point. It is obvious that in cases where small fines have been imposed it would be absurd to have the whole thing formally reheard by a Court of Inquiry and decided by the Home Secretary. On the other hand, supposing we fix a point at which a fine becomes a possible subject of appeal, we are tempting disciplinary authorities to impose a fine just below the point where appeal becomes possible.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis), who informed me that he would be unable to stay for the remainder of the Debate, and the hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Culverwell) both referred to the resolution that was passed by the Association of Municipal Corporations concerning this matter. That resolution begins by saying that the committee of the Association dealing with this matter do not think it necessary to oppose the Police (Appeals) Bill. At the same time, they go on to say that they are not aware of any circumstances which render that Bill necessary in the case of borough police forces the members of which have at the present time a right of appeal to the watch committee. I have already dealt with that point and explained that there is not in the borough force a right of appeal to the watch committee; there is simply a substitution, in the case of the borough force, of the watch committee as the disciplinary authority in place of the Chief Constable in the county force. The third paragraph of the resolution suggests that in view of the proposals now under consideration for the amalgamation of police forces, it is urgently necessary that effect should be given to the recommendation embodied in paragraph 49 of the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons of 1932. It then quotes the recommendation that: In any case where the police force of a borough is merged in that of a county, all members of the county force should have a right of appeal against the decision of the Chief Constable in matters of discipline to the Standing Joint Committee. The resolution went on to urge the Government to introduce legislation on those lines. Clearly, it is unreasonable to provide a right of appeal only in cases where an amalgamation takes place. Obviously, one must deal with all county police forces on the same lines, and it would be quite unreasonable to give an extended right of appeal to certain policemen and not to others. My hon. Friend the Member for Holland-with-Boston (Mr. Butcher) said that we had introduced this legislation without proper thought or consideration, that we had rushed into it. In point of fact, if hon. Members will look at the Second Reading Debate of the Police (Appeals) Bill, 1927, they will see that the extended rights of appeal now being given to police officers generally were urged on the Government at that time by Mr. Jack Hayes, who was a Member of the House for a great many years, and who had had great experience of police matters. Therefore, this is no new proposal that we are introducing.

One or two of my hon. Friends seem to fear that it is all part of a scheme for centralising the administration of police forces in the hands of the Home Office; I can assure them it is nothing of the kind. The effect of this proposal will be to strengthen the confidence of the ordinary police officer in the fairness of the administration of discipline in the force in which he serves. In so far as it does that, it will weaken the case for centralising the administration of police forces. It will tend to even out differences in the administration of discipline as between one force and another, and it will give individual police officers much greater confidence in the security of their positions and the feelings that they are getting a fair deal. We are making this alteration in the form of a permanent alteration of the law because it is, in our view, a good thing to do and a thing which ought to have been done many years ago.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

Does the right hon. Gentleman really mean that a police officer will be in a similar position to a chief constable as regards a watch committee and that he will have a right of appeal to a higher authority, which he did not have before?

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

He will have a right of appeal in exactly the same way to the Home Secretary in two cases in which he did not have it before.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

For an inquiry into any injustice that he may suffer from?

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

No, there are two specific cases, one where the rate of pay is reduced and the other where he is reduced in rank. In both those cases there will be a right of appeal to the Home Secretary whatever the force in which the man is serving. [Interruption.] I dealt with that point. I said there were good reasons for not proceeding on the lines of the Select Committee's Report, which draws a distinction between police officers whose forces have been amalgamated and officers whose forces have not been touched by the amalgamation measures.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Has the right hon. Gentleman made clear to watch committees the limitation of their powers, because there is the Ipswich case of an officer charged with theft who was dismissed by the watch committee and refused any appeal to a court? It is outrageous that the watch committee should assume the power of a public court and decide that a man is guilty of such a serious offence and dismiss him and then the man is refused any appeal to a public court. Is it made clear to watch committees that they have no right to do any such thing?

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

The Bill does not alter the law in that respect in any way. If a constable is dismissed by a watch committee, in any event ever since 1927, he has had a right of appeal to the Home Office, and the conditions of the appeal are laid down by the Act of 1927.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

That is not clear enough. Has a watch committee the right to try a constable on a charge of theft and, if the man appeals to the Home Secretary, should he not automatically have a right to a trial in court?

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for the next Sitting Day.—[Major Sir James Edmondson.]

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.