Police (Pay)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th July 1978.

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Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South 12:00 am, 17th July 1978

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the reports of the Edmund-Davies committee, which has been reviewing police pay and negotiating machinery. The two reports are being presented to Parliament today.

I should like to place on record the gratitude of the Government to Lord Edrnund-Davies and his colleagues for these two penetrating and thorough reports.

The committee draws attention to the unique position of the police in our society which, in its view, justifies the maintenance of the prohibition of the right to strike. The Committee also concludes that the work of the police has got steadily more difficult and demanding over the last 20 years. Against the background of increasing crime the committee is concerned about the serious manpower deficiencies in the police service.

The committee recommends substantial increases in the pay of all ranks of the police service—with a view not only to making police service a more attractive career for potential recruits but, even more important, to making the pay of experienced officers sufficiently attractive to stem wastage. Thus, the committee recommends an increase of 29·7 per cent for a police constable in his first year of service and 45·5 per cent for a constable with 15 or more years' service. For the average constable the recommended basic pay will rise to more than £5,000 a year, some £1,500 more than now.

The committee recommends national rates of pay for all police officers, with special allowances for London and Northern Ireland. To meet the exceptional manpower difficulties in London, a new allowance of £650 a year is recommended for the Metropolitan and City of London police, in addition to the existing London weighting of £319 a year. In view of the special difficulties which service in the Royal Ulster Constabulary entails for officers and their families, an increased allowance of £500 a year is recommended. The committee also makes recommendations for up-dating police pay in the future.

As the House knows, the Government are committed to implementing the committee's recommendations on pay, subject only to phasing. The committee recommends that the proposed new scales should be implemented on 1st September 1978, but recognises that the Government, for wider reasons, may decide to phase them. The Government have decided that the increases shall be implemented in two equal instalments, on 1st September 1978 and 1st September 1979. The instalment due on 1st September 1979 will be updated in accordance with the committee's recommendations. Pensions will, however, be calculated as if the recommended rates had been paid in full from 1st September 1978.

The new London allowance will be phased in two equal parts, like the main award. In the case of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, £365 will be paid from 1st April 1978 the balance of this allowance will be payable from 1st April 1979

The Government will now consult the representatives of the police authorities and the police service with a view to making regulations giving effect to the pay award.

In its report on negotiating machinery the committee stresses the importance of setting up new machinery as soon as possible. The Government will now seek the comments of the local authority associations and police representative bodies on these recommendations.

The committee's findings and the new scales of pay mark a fresh era in the history of the police service. Recruitment should be stimulated, wastage cut back, and the police service enabled to counter more effectively threats to law and order.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

Will the right hon. Member note that the Opposition wish to join him in expressing thanks to Lord Edmund-Davies and his committee for their reports? Does he appreciate that we warmly welcome the reports, especially the stress that the committee lays on the unique position of the police and the armed forces and its insistence that the police service should not have right to strike? The Opposition also welcome the proposed London allowance. and I welcome on personal grounds, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does, the special allowance for the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Following directly from the Committee's basic assumption that the scales recommended should be implemented on 1st September of this year for the clear reasons which it gives, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in deciding to phase the award the Government are taking a major risk over the protection of our people— [HON. MEMBERS "Nonsense."] Will the Secretary of State also note that in the interests of providing for the safety of our streets, the next Conservative Government, as we have consistently urged for more than a year now, after the General Election will implement in full the pay increases proposed in the Edmund-Davies report without delay?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I note what the right hon. Member said about the unique nature of the police about the Royal Ulster Constabulary and about the London allowance 1 simply say to the right hon. Gentleman that he should take into account the average figure of 40 per cent. increase which is recommended and that, by dividing it into two parts, we are paying 20 per cent. from 1st September and that this is a remarkable pay award. I may say to the right hon. Member that I have spoken to representatives of the police, and I bring to his attention two factors. The first is that the police warmly welcome the award. The second is that I know from going round the country that the police themselves do not take very kindly to the idea that our streets are like those of Chicago. It is not true.

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Southwark Bermondsey

For nearly two years my right hon. Friend has had to take a great deal of personal abuse in this House and outside, even from small elements of the police themselves. Is he aware that what he has proposed is probably the most generous pay increase ever awarded to our police? It means roughly a 40 per cent. increase. Quite sensibly, he has decided to phase it in what can be regarded as two 20 per cent. increases. In the light of the fact that the police received what has been called the normal 10 per cent. some time last year, it means that in this one year the police will be getting a very substantial increase, and quite rightly, in my view.

Is my right hon. Friend further aware that the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), who has the respect of many of us on the Labour Benches, can only be told that his remarks today were absolutely disgraceful? They cannot and will not be accepted by the police and are mere badinage to try to get policemen to vote Conservative when they know how a Tory Government would fact our economic problems?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

My right hon. Friend has members of his family in the police force, and it is on that basis that he has spoken to me a number of times during the year, thus giving the lie to some of the rubbish that I hear in different parts of the country, from candidates who will never find themselves in this place. that somehow the Conservative Party is the repository of law and order That is not so The award that is given today is a fine award Also my right hon. Friend. representing part of south-east London, and technically an inner city area, knows that this decision will be welcomed by Labour voters and, indeed, by all voters in that sort of area.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomery

May I join the Home Secretary in thanking Lord Edmund-Davies and his committee for their most thoroughgoing and penetrating report? Will it not rank with the Willink report as a very important landmark in the development of the police? Is it not very important, in implementing the recommendations that the report makes for future pay awards to the police, to make sure that there is no pressure for strike rights within the police force? Also, in view of the question asked by the Shadow Home Secretary, will the Home Secretary tell the House how much it would cost the country to implement all the recommendations immediately?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I am grateful for the hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks about the pay award. It is a landmark. It is a landmark following Willink in the early 1960s. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will not hold me to the precise figure, but I have checked this morning and I think that—I am subject to correction here—the award that I have announced today will cost £250 million.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

Does the Home Secretary agree that Lord Edmund-Davies has vindicated in every particular—wastage, danger, constant commitment and no right to strike—the case that has been made consistently over the last two years by the Police Federation?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that in the event that it falls to his Government to implement the second stage of the award, it will be inflation-proofed?

Thirdly, if Edmund-Davies has told us—and the right hon. Gentleman accepts it—that this large increase is necessary now, how can it be right to ask the police to wait a further year for the second half?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has not had time to read the report, for Lord Edmund-Davies deals with that precise, last point. Also—and again, I understand that the hon. Member has not read the report—recommendation (xlv) says: The recommended pay scales for the federated and superintending ranks should be updated on 1st September 1979 and in subsequent years in accordance with changes in the index of average earnings (new series) in the previous 12 months. That has to be taken with recommendation (xlviii), which says: Either side of the new negotiating body should be able to propose variations to the up-dating process in the light of changes either in the police service or in pay movements in the economy as a whole. On the hon. Member's first point, about figures that were bandied about last year, we set up this committee to get the true figures. I leave it like that.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol North East

Will my right hon. Friend take it from me that his statement today will be widely welcomed in Bristol and the West Country, where he recently paid a visit? Will he not weary in welldoing until he has made the police service a fully attractive career in the service of democracy—and I emphasise "democracy"?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

On the last point, I visited Bristol the other day and saw some of the problems there. When my hon. Friend was speaking, it brought a point to my mind that I think is not, perhaps, sometimes realised in all parts of the House. The constable is a unique person. He is rather different from a policeman in other parts of the world. He is unto himself. He takes decisions himself.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

He is unarmed in most cases, in a way that is unlike the practice in other parts of the world. But I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Palmer), who came to talk to me the other day when I visited Bristol, that I hope that these very large sums of money will recruit people to the police. I think that the professional pay, which we are paying now, will mean that we shall have to give more attention to the professional training of the police force.

This report cannot stand by itself. In my view, it is the harbinger of far greater changes. All of us, in all parts of the House, want to see more professional policemen on the streets. I give my word that, based on this, I shall start talking straight away about what goes on in the Police College and what sort of training is given to a policeman, because we are not talking about Dogberry at play any more. In the world of today there is a very professional job to do, and I give my tribute to the job that the police have done already.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

Is the Home Secretary aware that not only the Police Federation but the Superintendents' Association and senior police officers generally would regard this as a fair and reasonable award? But would not the Home Secretary agree with them that the real test lies in whether it will have the effect of reversing the present tendency for experienced officers to retire prematurely? Will he, therefore, clarify one point for me? I understood from his latter remarks in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) that after September 1979 police pay will take account of movements in average earnings. Will he confirm that as from 1st September 1979, account will be taken of any movement in average earnings that has taken place in the preceding 12 months?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. The House will not be surprised to know that I have met all the representative bodies this morning, in the normal way. What the hon. Gentleman has just said is a fair way of putting what was put to me.

Two points arise after what has been said. There are many aspects that affect the middle ranks which need to be looked at very carefully. There are now 7,000 more policemen than there were four years ago. The problem is one of wastage, but wastage at two ends. There is wastage after three or four years, when a young policeman gets married and when his wife is not very interested in his being on three weeks of duty away from home.

I should tell the House something that I had not realised—that many young women who marry policemen find being apart in the community something that they do not appreciate very much. They feel unto themselves in a way that they do not like.

There are many aspects of this problem. However, the hon. Gentleman should consider the pensions that are coming. It will not happen this September, but when men get to the other end of the scale, given the fact that they retire at the age of 45 or 50, and perhaps a little older when they are in the senior ranks, there will be a strong interest in retiring early, because there is a very high pension and there are jobs to be obtained outside that to top up the pension.

Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I was a little long in my remarks on that subject. But it is not pay alone that will determine the success of the police service. It requires regard by the community for a most difficult job that they have to do.

Several Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I should like to make an appeal to the House. The main business for today falls under a timetable motion. I shall be deeply grateful if questions could be brief and to the point.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

Will my right hon. Friend try to learn a lesson from the situation of the statement that has had to be made today? Will he accept that the reason why he has had to make the statement along those lines is the application of incomes policies over the period since 1972, by successive Governments, including, so I believe, the three police spokesmen, who act on behalf of the police, on the Tory Benches, who voted for incomes policies under the period of the previous Conservative Government?

Will my right hon. Friend accept that this is a landmark—a harbinger, to use his own words? Will he learn the lessons and see to it that this will result in the Government keeping out of the free collective bargaining arena and letting the people get on with the job, not merely in terms of the police but generally?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

My hon. Friend says "Keep out". I am responsible for the police directly. Under the present arrangements and what is recommended, myself and my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Northern Ireland would be involved in the pay negotiations. Anyone who believes that police pay could be left to the free market in order to determine it should realise that the police themselves would lose by it and, in my view, so would anyone else in the public sector. It is only certain parts of the private sector that gain by Chicagoesque free market forces.

Photo of Mr James Molyneaux Mr James Molyneaux , South Antrim

Is the Home Secretary aware that we on the Ulster Unionist Bench welcome the general increase and, in particular, the special allowance for the Royal Ulster Constabulary? Is he also aware that the arrangements for prompt payment of that allowance, which will no doubt be made by himself and by his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, will convince the RUC that their outstanding services have been appreciated by Parliament and the entire nation?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), who spoke for the Opposition, spoke for me when he mentioned the regard that we have for the RUC. We know of the number of policemen in Northern Ireland who have been killed. Their wives have also been put at risk. To some very small degree, this payment is a recognition of that.

We shall do our part as to prompt payment. It can be made more quickly in Northern Ireland, because it is made direct, and I know that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State can move very quickly. Our aim is certainly that it shall be paid from 1st September. We want to get it into the pay packets on 1st September.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Will my right hon. Friend appreciate that there is an element of courage in this decision, and will he accept from me that it was the right decision? Never has a country depended more on a fair and efficient police force for the maintenance of law and order than this country does at the present time. I think that it is regrettable that the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) said what he said on behalf of the Opposition. Many of us were staggered when we heard of the cost, but it would have been very much easier for us to accept this were it not for the profligacy of the Conservative Party in regard to certain amendments to the Finance Bill.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend—who, of course, had a responsibility in Scotland for the police—for his remarks about a courageous decision. I am sure of one thing—that the most a Government can do about law and order is to see that there are trained policemen on the streets, acting under their own responsibility in a way that is not found in any other part of the world. It is something of which we ought to be proud.

Photo of Mr George Thompson Mr George Thompson , Galloway

Is the Secretary of State aware that we in the Scottish National Party welcome this award as a piece of overdue justice? Is he absolutely satisfied that hope partially deferred will stem wastage between now and September 1979?

Secondly, did the Committee look at the question of providing a special allowance in Strathclyde on the lines of that provided in London and in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

The committee looked at the question about Strathclyde. There are, of course, forces other than Strathclyde—for example, in the west Midlands and in greater Manchester—which also have problems. The committee decided that the payment should be made in the Metropolis, where over the years there has been the largest deficiency in the number of policemen. They are the people who continually have extra responsibilities—for example, we know from the press today that they are involved at Heathrow and concerned in problems of terrorism and so forth. Much of this work lands on the plate of the Metropolitan Police in a way which does not happen elsewhere.

I think it is generally accepted that this award will help stop the wastage but, as I said earlier, although pay is a major factor, there are other things as well to take into account.

Several Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I propose to call four hon. Members from each side. Mrs. Dunwoody.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody , Crewe

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his generous and sensible award should do away once and for all with the suggestion that it is only low pay which causes wastage in the police force? Will my right hon. Friend therefore draw to the attention of the chief constables concerned—and particularly to the head of the Metropolitan Police—that the time has come for them to institute new man-management proposals, and to look at the way in which they handle the existing arrangements inside the police force, particularly in relation to the use of women officers?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what she has said, based on her knowledge of the Cheshire police and the work in her part of the country. It is interesting that my hon. Friend talked about assessing the situation, but not only in regard to the heavier recruitment of women in recent years. I talked to the Commissioner this morning, and, even in advance of this report, on the basis of the word "professionalism" that I have been using, we have all—that is, the police department at the Home Office, chief constables in other parts of the country, and the Association of Chief Police Officers—been thinking of how to use professional policemen in a more modern fashion in order to meet the needs of modern society.

Photo of Mr Roger Sims Mr Roger Sims , Chislehurst

Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that it is entirely illogical for him to say that he accepts the report in full and then to implement only half the figure that the committee suggests as appropriate for implementation on 1st September this year? Is he aware that it is the people, not the politicians, who are making law and order an issue, and that his response to the committee's report does not measure up to the committee's concern?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

The hon. Gentleman says that my action is not logical, but the agreement we made a year ago was that this is the way in which it should be done. People are concerned about law and order, but some politicians prostitute this concern in order to try to win a cheap vote.

Photo of Mr David Stoddart Mr David Stoddart , Swindon

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, in addition to these pay scales, there will continue to be a tax-free rent allowance? Will he confirm that in London, with this allowance grossed up, because it is tax-free, a constable after 15 years' service will be getting in excess of £7,500 per annum?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I have here the figures for September. A constable in the provinces with 15 years' service, with a rent allowance of £880, and with all the qualifications involved, and with the normal overtime, will be on £6,668 per annum.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Royal Tunbridge Wells

Is it not plain from paragraphs 7 and 8 of the introduction and paragraph 206 of the main report that the committee's findings is that if the Home Secretary is to recruit and retain men and women of sufficient quality to maintain the law and enforce it, the recommendations concerning increased pay must be implemented on 1st September this year? Does the Home Secretary disagree with that and, if so, on what grounds?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I disagree because the hon. and learned Gentleman is always the sort of chap who thinks that by talking in this way there will be a few votes in it.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend take it from me, as a new Member who faced the electors not so long ago, that the report and his statement today will be warmly welcomed by members of the public? Will he also take it from me, as the son, the brother and the grandson of police officers—and also as one who was, until his election to this House, a member of the board of governors of the Scottish Police College—that there will be wide support in the police service for the statement made today?

But will he remember that there are groups in the community who will themselves wish to use the report and statement as a precedent for future negotiations or for future bargaining? Will he, therefore, take pains to underline the fact that the police service, alone in the community, is now the only group prohibited by statute from the right to strike, and that this position must be endorsed by the police organisations if the generosity of the Government is to be justified at the end of the day?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

Phase 4 may be dead but, if we were to accept the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), that we gain out of a non-pay policy, the police would lose straight away if everybody else were to get this sort of increase. Indeed, the whole community would lose, because it cannot stand a 40 per cent. pay increase for everybody. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) knows that I have some knowledge of his connection with the police, with his family background. I am extremely grateful to him for his comments and, with regard to the last part of his question, I think that that is what the police as a whole will say.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Aitken Mr Jonathan Aitken , Thanet East

Will the Home Secretary try to give rather calmer answers to questions from this side of the House? In particular, will he say what precisely are the wider reasons to which he referred and which he took into account in reaching his decision to phase these pay increases? Do the Government accept that the police are a unique case? If they are a unique case, why do the Government need to alter the recommendation of the Edmund-Davies committee of an immediate increase, presumably on the ground that other wage claims which are not unique might be affected?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

Whether I am calm or otherwise is my business, and not the hon. Gentleman's. If he could hear the rubbish that comes from him and his hon. Friends he would think it no wonder that I get hot under the collar. It is clear that a 40 per cent. increase paid now would not be in the interests of the community. What we have done shows the uniqueness of the police, at the same time taking into account the wider problems of the community, which the Conservative Government certainly did not do.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the reception that the report has had from the House not only justifies the setting-up of the Edmund-Davies committee—and the House should be grateful—but shows also that he was right all the way in asking Opposition Members to await the report so that we could avoid making the police in this sensitive area of police pay a political issue? The Opposition have lost an opportunity to do that this afternoon. What will be the salary of a young man entering the police force later this year compared with the pay of a young constable who joined over 12 months ago?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

A constable entering the Metropolitan Police as from 1st September 1978 will have a basic pay of £3,187, a London allowance of £325, a London weighting of £319, average overtime of £1,020 and average rent allowance of £1,172. The figures in that case come to £6,023 and that would have to be compared by subtraction—which no doubt my hon. Friend is capable of doing more quickly than I—with the situation now. Overall, the new increases will bring advantage to the citizens of London as a whole, including that part of Ealing which my hon. Friend represents.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Camden Hampstead

The right hon. Gentleman has had the advantage, which we have not, of reading the report. He mentioned consultation with the police authorities. Is there anything that he is trying to do to ensure that there is some form of consultation within the Metropolitan Police district, which does not exist at the moment in a democratic sense?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

A wider aspect of consultation is another matter. The Greater London Council is not involved except with the precepting for payment for the Metropolitan Police.


Photo of Mr Jonathan Aitken Mr Jonathan Aitken , Thanet East

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would like to seek your guidance on the nature of the unparliamentary language used by the Secretary of State for the Home Department in reply to questions put to him today from the Opposition Benches. It was in the hearing of the House that he made a grossly offensive personal remark to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew), saying that he would do anything for votes. That remark, made in the context of the legitimate point that my hon. and learned Friend was seeking to make, was grossly unfair. Also, it appeared that the Home Secretary's language to my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) suggested that there was something in the nature of prostitution in the legitimate points made from this side of the House about police pay. Could you use your good offices to restrain the Home Secretary in future?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I hope that the House will listen to what I have to say now. I hope that in the next few weeks we can have less emotion, less of an eye on another coming target and more on the day-to-day business, for otherwise things will become more difficult every day in this place.