Police

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd March 1972.

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Mr. R. C. Mitchell:

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many new recruits joined the police forces in England and Wales during 1971; how many left the police forces during the same period; and how many of those who left had completed less than five years' service.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

The figures are: 7,077; 4,020; 1,770.

Mr. Mitchell:

On the 1,770 who left the police force during the last year having completed less than five years' service, has the Home Secretary any categorised information as to why they left?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I am afraid not. We had to make special arrangements to obtain this figure to answer the Question.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler , Nottingham South

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that the 1971 recruiting figures are exceptionally good and give real hope for an end to the police shortage? Would he not also agree that they show how correct it was for the Government to reverse the disgraceful policy of the last Labour Government in restricting police recruiting?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I am certainly pleased with last year's figures, both on recruitment and reduction of wastage, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that there is still a long way to go.

Photo of Mrs Shirley Williams Mrs Shirley Williams , Hitchin

It is encouraging that police recruitment went up last year although we do not regard it as unrelated to the unemployment situation. Has the Home Secretary considered the possibility of attaching a welfare officer to those police stations which have a great deal of welfare work during the night? This is one of the difficulties the police face. Can he say anything about the recruitment of coloured police officers?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I will be happy to consider the first point. On the second, I would like to see more coloured police officers recruited, but the difficulty is to get the recruits to come forward.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many more special constables are required in England and Wales; and what steps he is taking to encourage their recruitment.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

The total number of special constables at the end of 1971 was 29,990; many more could be used. Recruitment is the responsibility of chief officers of police, who are always on the look-out for suitable volunteers. Some new recruiting material has been prepared and will be available very soon.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

Does that answer mean that myright hon. Friend the Home Secretary does not himself wish to give any encouragement to the recruiting of special constables? What is his attitude, bearing in mind that this is a matter of national importance?

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

It does not mean that at all. It means what I said in my reply—that many more could be used. That is the view of my right hon. Friend and myself. As to publicity, we supply to chief constables centrally posters and leaflets which they can use. Special constables have always been recruited locally, and I think that is right.

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , West Derbyshire

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the main barriers to recruiting more special constables, who are urgently needed, is finance? Will he urge our right hon. Friend to do the maximum he can to support recruiting, and make the watch committees supply more money where required?

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

I do not think that it is a matter of finance. Possibly there has not been enough publicity recently, but recruiting is well within the capabilities of the amounts now available.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the concern felt by the police at the present position whereby allegations of neglect, malpractice and maladministration made against police officers are investigated by the police, and the fact that this affects promotion and security of employment, he will give the reasons why he will not now seek powers to appoint an appeal and investigating committee under a judge.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I made a statement on 2nd December about the procedure for investigating complaints against the police. A member of a police force who is dealt with for an offence against discipline may appeal to me.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

But since then there have been a number of cases where the police and their Federation have complained of the unfairness whereby police officers can be, and are, held up to investigation sometimes by people in the very force in which they have had a disagreement, and this may impede the promotion of the person being investigated. Is it not unfair that a policeman can be charged by anyone and then find that people he has quarrelled with will investigate the complaint against him? Surely there should be an independent means of investigation?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I do not think so. Where a member of a disciplined force is the subject of a complaint, it must be investigated by his commanding officer. If there is any feeling of injustice, he can appeal to me.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler , Nottingham South

Does my right hon. Friend also agree that although no one wants to discourage genuine complaints, the vast majority of complaints made against the police today are both trivial and groundless?

Photo of Mr Norman Atkinson Mr Norman Atkinson , Tottenham

How does the hon. Gentleman know?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler , Nottingham South

Therefore, could my right hon. Friend examine ways in which the burden on the police can be reduced in dealing with that category of complaints?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I should very much like to find a way of doing that. It is very difficult. The trouble is that it is a one-way option: a person complains against the police, and if his complaint is established he wins; if it is not, he loses nothing.

Photo of Mrs Shirley Williams Mrs Shirley Williams , Hitchin

I acknowledge the extreme importance of maintaining public confidence in the police, which is very largely justified, but I also recognise the effect that a small number of such cases may have. Has the right hon. Gentleman given any consideration to the suggestion of associating an independent lawyer with at least certain inquiries into police indiscipline?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I think there is a misunderstanding here. It is already a statutory requirement that a complaint about any behaviour that may involve a criminal offence must be referred to the independent judgment of the Director of Public Prosecutions.