§ MR. HIBBERT
said, in rising to move the introduction of the Bill standing in his name, he felt it his duty, even at that late hour, to offer a few words of explanation to the House. He was afraid this was unavoidable, for the Bill had been for a very long time under consideration, and often deferred. The measure, which dealt with great interests, he might say, had resulted from the Committee appointed by his right hon. Friend opposite, in 1877. It was very much owing to the interest which the Report of that Committee had created that Her Majesty's Government now found themselves enabled to lay a measure dealing with the question of Police Superannuation upon the Table of the House. The Committee, in their Report, went very fully into the subject, and he might point out to his right hon. Friend opposite that the recommendations in that Report, which were embodied in the Bill, were seven in number, all of them constituting very important amendments of the law, and certainly adding, as they would do, very much to the advantages now enjoyed by the police of the country. In the first place, he might say that the greatest dissatisfaction existed with respect to the uncertainty of the claim for pensions to police constables. Under the present law, a constable who entered the Service at 21 years of age was not enabled to obtain his pension before he reached the age of 60, unless he obtained a certificate of incapacity in mind or body from the Chief Constable of the Force. That was felt to be a very serious hardship by the Constabulary. The Committee, after considering this question, recommended that there should be a certain number of years during which the police con- 618 stable should serve, and at the end of that time that he should be able to claim his pension as a right. They recommended the term of 25 years, and the Government had adopted it in the Bill, so that for the future every police constable who served for 25 years in the force would be enabled to claim his pension. Then an important alteration was proposed in the direction of giving pensions to widows. Under the present law, the widow of a police constable was only allowed to receive a gratuity even if her husband were killed in the execution of his duty, and might himself have been entitled to a pension. The Government had adopted the recommendation of the Committee, and it was proposed that instead of giving a gratuity, the widow should be entitled to claim a pension according to the scale which would be found in the Bill. Moreover, the Government also proposed to make an allowance for each child up to the age of 15. The Committee had also considered the great difficulty and great abuses which existed under the system of certificates; and Her Majesty's Government proposed that in future all these certificates would be required to bear the name of a competent medical man, in addition to that of the Chief Constable of the Force in which the constable served. The next point he wished to allude to was that of length of service. According to the present law, a constable could not count past service upon entering a new force unless he had passed seven years in the first force in which he served. Now, Her Majesty's Government proposed, if a constable changed his force, with the consent of the Chief Constable of that Force, that he should be entitled to claim the whole period passed in the first force. Police constables would, therefore, be placed in a better position in this respect also. There was one point in which they had not carried out the recommendation of the Committee, and that had relation to the Superannuation Fund. The Committee recommended that pensions should be a direct charge on the rates, and that the Superannuation Fund should be transferred to the police funds in counties, and the borough rates in boroughs. But owing to the great alteration which had taken place during the last seven years with regard to the solvency of the fund, and the large amount of money 619 paid to the fund, the Government had decided that it would he fairer to the ratepayers and the Constabulary that the fund should he continued. He might observe that the fund had increased in amount since 1874, when this question was considered, from a total capital of £865,000 to a capital of £1,145,000— the increment being £279,000. Now, in order to strengthen this fund, the Government proposed to grant additional fees in aid of it. Under the present Licensing Act only one-half of the fines in connection with licences were paid over to the Superannuation Fund; but it was now proposed that the whole of those fines should he paid over. Again, the fund was to have the benefit of all fines for assaults on constables, which had been hitherto paid over to the county and borough rates, and, amongst other items, hawkers' and chimneysweepers' licence fees were also to be paid to the fund. In addition, there would be paid over to the fund the fees for serving writs and summonses in counties. In the case of boroughs these had always been paid over; but it was now the intention of the Government to place the counties and boroughs, so far as this matter was concerned, on the same footing. They trusted, with all these additional means of strength, that before many years were over all the pension funds would be found in a solvent state. In the majority of cases the funds were so solvent, although in some places they were not; and in the case of the Metropolis the whole of the fund had gone. But upon the principle they proposed to adopt of investing 2½ per cent. of the pay every year, it was expected that this question of pensions would be adjusted more to the satisfaction of the ratepayers than by making the pensions a direct charge upon the rates. He asked the House, in considering this Bill, to look upon it as affecting the interests of a body of men who were well worthy of their consideration, inasmuch as they were indebted to them so much for their comfort and safety every day of their lives. On those grounds he trusted that the splendid body of men composing the Constabulary Force in England would find that Parliament, in considering their claims and grievances, was willing to make such changes in the law as would make their future condition much 620 more satisfactory than it was at present. He was unable, from want of more complete information, to speak with regard to Scotland; but in the case of England a system of pensions had been in existence for 40 years. In Scotland he believed the system to be entirely new, and it would be for Scotch Members to consider whether they would support the proposals of the Government. For the reasons he had given, he asked the House to consent to the introduction of the Bill.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision respecting the pensions, allowances, and gratuities of Police Constables in Great Britain and their widows and children; and to make other provisions respecting the Police of Great Britain."—(Mr. Hibbert.)
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he must express his gratification that Her Majesty's Government should have taken up this subject, which had long been deferred; and he trusted to find in the provisions of the measure sketched out by the hon. Gentleman opposite that the claims of the police were fairly dealt with.
§ COLONEL ALEXANDER
said, that having been in communication with various members of the Police Force, and being alive to the great interest taken by the Force in the question of superannuation, he ventured to promise the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill the thanks of that body for the introduction of measures calculated to improve the position of the Force with regard to superannuation. There might be some matters of difference still remaining; but the men would now feel that the point for which they had been struggling for years—the indefeasible right of every constable to a fixed pension—had been acknowledged. For his own part, he trusted Her Majesty's Government would take the earliest opportunities of pressing the Bill forward in order that it might pass into law this Session.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. HIBBERT, Secretary Sir WILLIAM HAR-COURT, and The LORD ADVOCATE.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 197.]