§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. HIBBERT
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he had been waiting to bring it forward since 1882; and he thought it would be unreasonable if an attempt were made not to have the discussion on it now. The Bill was introduced in the interests of a very long-suffering class—the police-constables of thiscountry— who had been waiting patiently for some years past for some way of improving their system of superannuation. It was now seven years ago since a Committee of the House of Commons sat to consider the question of police superannuation. The Chairman of that Committee was his hon. Friend opposite (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), who, he was sure, was prepared to give his support to the proposals contained in the Bill now before the House. He fully admitted that the Bill had met with considerable opposition; but he was in a position to say that much of that opposition had been withdrawn during the present year, owing to certain concessions that had been made 1713 with regard to it. He had had two classes of persons to contend with in dealing with this subject. In the first place, there were those who were interested in the local taxation question, and who considered that, if anything was to be done to give the police increased superannuation, or a claim to it, such as was proposed in. the Bill, the same grant should be given towards the superannuation sums, as was now given towards the maintenance of the police in the counties and boroughs of this country. He had never been able to meet the views of hon. Members who held that opinion. A considerable sum was now paid in aid of the police of this country (something like £1,250,000 to £1,300,000), and the Treasury were not very willing to increase the amount, as suggested by those who favoured the local taxation view. In the next place, he had had to meet the opposition of those who represented the municipalities of the country. He was happy to say that, with the exception of a very few, those opponents were now willing that the Bill should pass. One reason, however, why they had assented to the Bill was that he had agreed to considerable alterations being made in the conditions of the claim for superannuation. It was originally proposed that any constable who had served 25 years should be entitled to compulsory superannuation; but a condition was inserted in the Bill, which stated that, with respect to an inspector or person of higher rank, the limit of age should be fixed at 55, and that the common constable should have attained 50 years of age. The change which he had made in the Bill to meet the views of the municipal authorities was, that the condition of 55 years should apply to all classes of the constabulary. Under the circumstances, therefore, he did think that they ought now to be able to come to some agreement upon the subject. Under the present law, a constable above the age of 60 could be superannuated, even though he had not obtained his certificate of ill-health. The evidence was, that that principle did not meet the wants and difficulties of those who entered the Police Force. There were very few police constables who entered the Police Forces of the country, especially the borough forces, who were not, to a considerable extent, worn out 1714 and unfit for active service after 25 years service. That was the evidence of many of the counties and of most boroughs. Probably the wearing out was not so severe in the counties as in the boroughs, and it was not so severe in some counties as in others; but there was, no doubt, a strong feeling on the part of chief constables, and on the part of many of the local authorities, that it would be to the advantage of the Police Force of the country, if there was some such system as was proposed in the Bill—that a man should be enabled to retire at the end of a certain number of years' service. The House of Commons' Committee considered whether that number of years should be 25 or 30, and they came to the unanimous conclusion that it should be 25. He, therefore, thought that the Government had the Committee on their side in respect of this proposal. It had been stated that they might have men entering the Force at 21 years of age who would be enabled to withdraw on a pension at the age of 46. There was something to be said for that objection; but 25 years' arduous work in a Police Force unfitted a man for efficient service. That was found to be the case in the Metropolis and in all large towns. The proposals in the Bill affected not less than 23,000 men in England and Wales, and something like 3,600 in Scotland. With respect to Scotland, he found that, with the exception of Greenock, there was no superannuation system in the country, and the result was that most of the best men in the English Force were drawn from Scotland. He had received letter after letter, showing how great was the advantage derived by England from drawing good men from Scotland. He had experienced that in his own county, Lancashire; and he had been told by men from Scotland, whom he had questioned, that they came down to the English Force, because the pay was better, and there was also a pension fund. What was the cost of making a policeman? Sir Edward Henderson had informed him that he could not make an efficient constable for less than £200 or £300. The loss, therefore, to those places where superannuation did not exist, and from which men were drawn or transferred to forces in England, must be great. From statistics on the subject, it would be found that the amount of 1715 men whore signed from the Force in boroughs was very much larger in comparison with either the County or the Metropolitan Force, being 56,000, as against 49,000 in the Metropolitan Force and 25,000 in the County Forces. That showed the advantage of having a good system of pensions in the Force. There were county and borough police forces with pension funds and no pensioners. There were 58 such borough forces and three such county forces. In some forces with pension funds they had but a single pensioner. Yet, in all these cases, a certain sum, usually 2½ per cent, was taken from the pay of the men and added to funds from which the men got no benefit at all; and was it not likely that, under such circumstances, the men would feel that they had a grievance? Parliament must consent to do something in the matter; and, unless some more regular system of superannuation was carried into effect, he believed that the complaints of the police would be even stronger in the future than they had been in the past. He considered, in fact, that the police of the country deserved great credit for their forbearance under the existing circumstances. In Ireland, last year, the police had gained what they were trying for, after taking upon themselves, in many instances, to create grave difficulties. They did not want to see the police in this country acting similarly; they wanted to meet them generously and fairly; and they would find that the police would fully repay any such attention and measure of justice being carried out in their favour. The number of pensioners out of a force of 23,000 was only 4,887, which was by no means a very largo number. They were told that if they made it a system absolutely to allow men to retire after 25 years' service, they would have a large additional sum to pay. No doubt they would have to pay a considerable sum; but he thought, at the same time, that it would be conceded that it was better that they should be able to keep their men, if they were good, than to have the constant chopping and changing about, which was the case at present, with the result that they were continually renewing their force. He would call attention to the question of how the Police Bill would affect counties. In Lancashire, out of 97 pensions granted in five years, it had been 1716 calculated that 35 would have received an increase, and 62 would have been decreased. The increase was in the case of all who had served for over 25 years; and those were just the men to whom they wished to give pensions, who had devoted their lives to the service, and fairly earned a generous pension. He would not go into detail as to the recommendations of the Committee; but he would like to call the attention of the House to the evidence given by men of great experience in the Force, who were chief constables. They were, practically, unanimous in recommending a pension after a fixed period of years, and that period was generally fixed at 25 years. The general opinion appeared to be that, after a service for 25 years, a constable was not fit for much, no matter at what age he might have entered the Force; and one chief constable had recommended 22 years as the length of service after which a man should be entitled to a pension. These were the opinions of responsible men who had been at the head of their respective forces for a considerable period of time, and who had the best means of knowing the lasting point of a policeman. Government had, therefore, adopted 25 years as the period after which a man should be entitled to a pension; but they had added the condition that that person, who claimed it should have reached the age of 55. That condition was, so far, against the men; but it had been accepted by them. The scheme brought forward in the present Bill conferred other advantages upon the men. At present, if a man died in active service, his widow received a gratuity; but his children were not entitled to a gratuity, or, indeed, to anything at all. They now proposed that the widow should be entitled to a pension, and also to a certain sum for each child, and, in the case where there were children but no widow, that each child should be allowed a certain gratuity. At present, again, if a man changed his force, he was only allowed to claim the advantage of a certain amount of the years he had served. It was now proposed to alter that, and to make it the rule that if a man had served three years in one force, and then changed into another, he should be entitled to count the number of years he had served. Another alteration which 1717 they now proposed to make was in the matter of fees. In the Bill of last year they had touched this question; but they had been, met by considerable objections on the part of counties which had strong pension funds, and also of the Scotch authorities. They had, therefore, made it permissive for those fees to be added to the pension fund. If the compensation fund of the country was in a weak condition, these fees would be added to it; but when the fund was strong, no doubt they would not be added. In respect to Scotland, the Scottish authorities would probably not add them at all; they preferred, if they were to pay those fees at all, not to take them out of the fines, but out of the rates. At the same time, the Scottish authorities approved of the reduction of pay for the men, and other small matters alluded to in the clauses of the Bill. He would appeal to the House to try to come to some understanding with the view of settling this question during the present Session. It was not a wise thing to delay the matter and make the men in the Police Force of England and Scotland think they were worse treated than their brethren in Ireland, or that the House was indifferent to the way in which their case was considered. Even in the case of hon. Members who opposed the Bill, their opposition was chiefly grounded on their dislike to throwing an additional burden upon the local rates, and their contention that additional pensions should be defrayed by the State. He believed the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sclater-Booth) was in favour of the Bill, except on that one point. With regard to the disabilities which men in the Police Force laboured under, it must be allowed that they had a good wage; but their disabilities were considerable. They were not allowed to enter into any trade or business; they were not allowed even to have a vote in municipal or Parliamentary elections. But perhaps the greatest disability of all was found when a man had to contribute to a fund in the force from which he saw no expectation of ever receiving anything back again. The hon. Member concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time "—(Mr. Hibbert.)1718
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, although he thought the introduction of the Bill, under present circumstances, highly objectionable, indeed so much so that he must protest against its being taken then, yet he did not grudge the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hibbert) the opportunity to discharge himself of a speech he must have had in his mind for three years, or take exception to anything he had said about the desire of the House to deal generously with the force. But when he invited the House to treat the force generously, at whose expense did he propose that it should be done? Not at the expense of the Treasury, or the Government; but at the expense of the local rates. The proposal of the Government was to take away from the county police authorities the discretion which, by law, was now vested in them. It seemed to him a most extraordinary thing that the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who was never weary of telling the House that he desired to decentralize and place more responsibility and more control in the hands of the local authority, should come down with this Procrustean rule to deprive them, without exception, of their discretion in awarding pensions to their police. To require a separate pension fund where the police superannuation fund was absolutely intact was a most unwarrantable intrusion upon the finance of counties. He was far from saying the police had not a grievance in the matter; but he did not approve of the way it was proposed to remedy it. If there were counties and boroughs in which there were stoppages of pensions, let them be looked to; but to apply one rule to all, entirely irrespective of their previous conduct, was very unfair. The Government proposal was no great boon after all. If they offered a pension to a man after 25 years' service, but provided that no superannuation should take place till the age of 55, what advantage was that to men who entered the service, as many of them did, at 20, or even earlier? It was, however, impossible for him to argue the question as he should desire; because the proposition to road the Bill a second time having come upon him by surprise, the materials he had been collecting for the last three years were not by him; but he must again protest against tarring all local authorities with the same brush. There were several 1719 points in the Bill to which strong objections could be taken, therefore the Government could not avoid a second discussion of this question, when an opportunity would be given to go into detail. He had risen out of courtesy to the hon. Member; but considering the way the Bill had come on, and that many hon. Gentlemen interested in the question were not present, he trusted the hon. Gentleman would not refuse to adjourn the debate.
§ VISCOUNT FOLKESTONE
said, he did not understand the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sclater-Booth) to move the adjournment of the debate; but he (Viscount Folkestone) was prepared to do so, as it had not been already moved. It was a very significant fact that, while the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hibbert) was prepared with his notes and speech on this occasion, the right hon. Gentleman had no expectation that the subject would come on, and was therefore unprepared. Many hon. Gentlemen who were opposed to the Bill were absent, and he thought it would be most unfair to proceed with such an important Bill in an empty House. The Bill was a most objectionable one; for, though he was quite willing that a man should be superannuated, the cost of it was to be thrown wholly on the unfortunate ratepayers. He would move the adjournment of the debate. He was not hostile to the Bill; but, if superannuation were granted, it ought to come out of the right and not out of the wrong pocket.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Viscount Folkestone.)
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I think the Police Force, who have with admirable patience waited for years for the measure of justice which is due to them, will read to-morrow, with some astonishment, the manner in which their claims are treated, and the Party from which that treatment comes. Yen have had from Gentlemen of great weight and influence, representing counties in England, a treatment of this measure which I think the police of England have not deserved.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I do not think this in the least alters the statement, but rather confirms it. This is another form of Obstruction in addition to the Motion for Adjournment of the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Folkestone). The attempt to count out by the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Scott), and the interruption which now comes from the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Hicks), show the obstinate determination there is to obstruct the Bill. The noble Viscount the Member for South Wiltshire has said that he does not object to the Bill generally; that he admits there ought to be a Bill, and to the general principles of the Bill he is not opposed. Then he ought to vote for the second reading, instead of moving the adjournment of the debate. I say this is not fair treatment to men who should have deserved fair treatment at the hands of this House and the country. I saw the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) in the House until the count; but I did not see him in his place when the count took place. I say that is not a fair way of meeting a measure of this description, and it would not so be considered by the country or by the police force, in whose conduct and in whose stability I venture to say the county Members of England are as much interested as anybody. Let them not obstruct the Bill, but manfully come forward on the clause with reference to superannuation, and object, as they are perfectly entitled to do, to the provisions of the Bill. If they make out a good case, they will convince the House, and make the Bill what it ought to be in that respect.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he must remind the right hon. Gentleman that he was now travelling beyond the Motion before the House.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I beg pardon for so doing. In speaking upon the Motion for Adjournment, I have deviated into the principles of the Bill. I was anxious to show the noble Viscount the real significance of the attitude he takes. I say again that the Motion for Adjournment ought not to 1721 have been moved, but that, as the objections raised are upon matters of detail, they should be dealt with in Committee, not on the second reading; and, under those circumstances, I hope the Motion will not be pressed, and the general discussion on the measure itself proceeded with.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he did not think the Government, and primarily the right hon. Gentleman, were treating the House fairly in bringing in the Bill at a time when no one could expect it would come on, and in forcing on a debate. ["Oh, oh!"] No one could have expected that this Bill would be under discussion tit that time, and therefore the Motion for Adjournment was perfectly proper. The right hon. Gentleman said his noble Friend (Viscount Folkestone) wished to obstruct the Bill; but the noble Viscount plainly said he was not opposed to the principle of giving pensions to the police. What was the main principle of the Bill? That the police should be pensioned out of the rates.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, no Party was more anxious than those who sat on that (the Opposition) side of the House that the question of pensions to the police of England and Scotland should be settled; but they maintained that although this scheme of the Government might be fair to the police it was not fair to the ratepayers; therefore he, with his noble Friend, was opposed to it, and he would take the sense of the House upon the Motion for Adjournment made by his noble Friend. As to the remarks of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) did walk out of the House, because he did not think it was fair to discuss the Bill before so small an attendance. But when the right hon. Gentleman told them that they wished to obstruct, and that they wished to deprive the police of pensions, he begged to tell him there was no foundation for those statements.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that early in the evening, when 337 Members voted in the Division, it was known that this Bill was one of the Orders of the Day to be proceeded with that night. Those hon. Members had gone away of their own choice; and there 1722 was, consequently, no foundation for the allegation that the House was unaware that the question was going to be discussed.
§ MR. INDERWICK
said, he would point out that when a Question was asked with regard to the Police Superannuation Bill, the Prime Minister drew attention to the fact that it was amongst the Orders of the Day, and said that Her Majesty's Government were anxious to press it on.
§ GENERAL ALEXANDER
said, he hoped the Motion would be withdrawn. He trusted, seeing that there still remained three hours during which the House could discuss the principles of the Bill, that at least one stage of it might be taken. He quite concurred with the Secretary of State for the Home Department that it would have a bad effect throughout the whole country if the Bill was not proceeded with. He spoke with some knowledge of the subject; because he was in constant communication with the police, especially with his own county, and he had presented numerous Petitions in favour of this Bill; and he, therefore, thought the Government were right in taking the first opportunity they had of passing a stage of the Bill. He could assure the House that the Police Force generally throughout the country would view with the greatest disgust the treatment they were now receiving. They all heard the other day—
§ GENERAL ALEXANDER
said, he would not refer to that matter; but he would again appeal to his noble Friend (Viscount Folkestone) to withdraw his Motion, so that they might proceed with the discussion of the Bill. Why he made that application was, because he was a Scotch Member, and he hoped he should not be out of Order in reminding the House of what an hon. Member had said. In Scotland they had 3,600 constables without any pension at all, and the Inspector General of Constabulary in Scotland reported that there were many constables in Glasgow who wore completely worn out, and whom it would be a scandal and a disgrace to discharge without a pension.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that, having served upon the 1723 Police Committee, he also hoped that the Bill would be proceeded with, as it related to a subject which deserved immediate consideration. If the present stage of the measure were allowed to be taken, any objection to its details might be raised on its further stage. He would suggest that his noble Friend (Viscount Folkestone) should not press his Motion, but reserve discussion for a future stage of the Bill. He would remind the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Charles W. Dilke) that a general supposition had prevailed that the debate on the Vote of Censure was coming on, and, therefore, that the Bill would not be reached that evening.
§ VISCOUNT FOLKESTONE
said, he could not accede to the request that had been made to him to withdraw the Motion.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 18; Noes 56: Majority 38.—(Div. List, No. 143.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he would venture to hops that those Members of the Government who were answerable for the Bill might soon return, for it was impossible to discuss the merits of the Bill without someone in authority being present to take notice of what was said. It was quite true the Bill had been before the House some considerable time, and he believed it was equally true that his hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had considered the Bill, or rather a Bill of the same kind, under the late Government. But he ventured to think there was a difference in that Bill from the one now before the House; for, most assuredly, the then Secretary of State for the Home Department would never have brought in a Bill of the kind, throwing all the responsibility of the burden of the pensions for the police on the rates of the country. As the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home 1724 Department (Mr. Hibbert) had now returned to his place, he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) wished to protest, in the strongest language he could use, against the remarks of both right hon. Gentlemen, the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the President of the Local Government Board. A most base accusation—if he might use a word the Prime Minister once used against a body of Gentlemen in the House—was it to say that those on the opposite side of the House were opposed to any pensions for the police. On the contrary, they had done their best to carry out the law as at present in existence for pensions for the police—the Superannuation Act. Especially they had taken care the police should have everything they were entitled to by the law; and it was hard that they should have to stand such an accusation, when they had never made any complaint of police pensions. He did not say there were not many policemen who would rather have the present Bill, giving them an absolute right if they remained for a certain time, if their character was good, or oven, under certain circumstances, if their character was not so good, that they should have the right to a certain amount of pension, though, in the opinion of the local authority, they ought not to be entitled to such a pension as named in the Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary both knew perfectly well that all the police did not conduct themselves in the same way, and that it was, therefore, a valuable provision to entrust the local authorities with—namely, that of distinguishing between the good and the bad men in the force—he should rather say those who had not conducted themselves so well. There was another class of men, who, having served their country very well, might at a certain time, or on a certain occasion, disgrace themselves and the force to which they belonged. Under a Bill such as this, there was no power of dealing with such a case, except by reducing these men—that they should not have the pension they were entitled to. Take, for instance, a superintendent who, on some unfortunate occasion, after 20 years' service, disgraced himself by getting drunk. By the Bill there was nothing for it but to reduce this man to the 1725 ranks. But when there was the power of giving this man only a certain portion of his pension, you got rid of such men as soon as you could, giving them a far less pension than those men who served well and creditably to the end of their time. All such power would be taken from the local authorities by the Bill. But the knowledge that the pension might be reduced would not be without its influence on the men's conduct, and the lack of power to diminish a man's pension without reducing his rank might destroy that influence, because there would be more hesitation to visit a man with extreme punishment. The right hon. Gentleman, he thought, had a liking for local authority, and thought that, generally speaking, local authorities discharged their duties to the best of their ability. So that in these respects the right hon. Gentleman ought to have left a little more to the discretion of the local authorities in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said there should be no discussion now, except of the general principles of the Bill; but the one principle that should find discussion with a good attendance of hon. Members wag that principle of placing the whole of the expenditure on the rates. On what principle was this proposed? The Government paid half the expenses of the police force, half the cost of their clothing; but when they came to the question of pensions, "No, not a farthing," said the Government, "will we pay; you have had what was necessary out of the Police Superannuation Fund, and, if not sufficient, out of the county or borough rate, and must continue to do so," though by what they had done they had admitted to the full that the Police Force was for the benefit of the whole country—an Imperial Force that should be subsidised out of the Imperial funds. This, in the Bill, was absolutely denied. On that main principle he opposed it. However, as the question of principle could not be discussed now, he hoped an opportunity for discussing it would be afforded on the Motion to go into Committee. While pensions had been paid in England, he admitted that in Scotland the interests of the police had been neglected. He hoped the second reading would be postponed to a future day, when the House would have an opportunity of fully discussing the measure.
§ SIR HENEY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, it appeared to him that the principal objection of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) to the Bill was that the whole burden of police superannuation was to be thrown for the first time on the county rates.
§ SIR HENEY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that he had certainly understood that that was his hon. Friend's main objection to the Bill. In point of fact, however, the rates of a county were practically liable for the whole of the police superannuations at the present moment. There were many boroughs, and one or two counties, where the superannuation funds were now absolutely bankrupt, and where the whole charge fell on the rates. The Bill had been hold over for so many years that he hoped the House would, on the present occasion, give it careful consideration, so as to settle the injury done to a large body of faithful public servants, and which they had been more than patient in bearing. If they looked at the question as affecting local authorities, they ought to consider whether it would not be necessary, supposing superannuation to be done away with altogether, to largely increase the pay in order to obtain really efficient policemen; and it appeared to the Committee which had inquired into this subject that a system of deferred pay after a given term of service, combined with direct pay, was a better method of retaining efficient men in the Force than increased pay simply. He hoped the Bill would not only be read a second time now, but would become law this Session.
§ MR. BARRAN
said, he had great pleasure in supporting the Bill, believing it would offer a strong inducement to men to enter the Police Force who were the most eminently fitted to discharge the duties of such a position. From his experience as a member of the Leeds Corporation, he was able to say that they had, from time to time, increased the pay of their police, and he had found that the more facilities they gave them for insuring annuities, the better quality of men did they get. It was of the utmost importance to have as intelligent men as possible; and whatever expenses were incurred, he was sure the public would get a quid pro quo 1727 for it. He believed the Police Force in Leeds was equal to that of any force in England. They had very little trouble with their men there, and they gave them every encouragement. They were not treated as mere machines; but much sympathy had been shown them, and the result had been greater efficiency. It would have been a good tiling if the provision laid down in this Bill had been made years ago.
§ MR. ROUND
said, he could understand that the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), who had himself been at the Home Office, should regard the Bill as, to some extent, his own child, and should, therefore, entertain a feeling of affection towards it. But the majority of the Representatives of agricultural constituencies viewed with disfavour the disposition of the Government to increase the charges of the local ratepayers. He, therefore, appealed to the Government not to ask them to pass the Bill in its present form, but to give them some help from the Treasury towards defraying the charges which the measure would throw upon them. In the county which he represented, the police were recognized to be an efficient and exemplary body of men. But, nevertheless, objection was taken to the increased charges under that Bill. Those local burdens fell entirely on one description of property, all personal property being exempted, although the police were as much employed to protect the owners of personal property as to protect the owners of real property. In the interest of the ratepayers of the country generally, he hoped that, before the Bill was put down for Committee, ample time for full discussion of its provisions would be granted to those hon. Members who were not there that night, and who took a very deep interest in the question of local taxation.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that there was no desire on the part of the Government to deprive hon. Gentlemen opposite of any opportunity they might wish to have for the full and proper discussion of that Bill; but if the Government had failed in endeavouring that night to advance the measure a stage, which, after all, did not conclude the matter, and which did not raise the question as to the source from which the funds were to be derived, they might 1728 have been blamed for not being in earnest in pressing the Bill forward. It was said that the Gentlemen who had on the Paper Notices of Motion against the Bill were absent; but there were only two hon. Gentlemen who had such Notices on the Paper—namely, the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) and the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Hicks), and they were both present that night. As to the general matter, after what his hon. Friend the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had said, he thought the House would take it as established that, after lie was 55 years of age, practically speaking, the policeman had done his work; and that to keep him longer in the Force was of no advantage either to him or to the public, but was really wasting the public money by paying him a considerable salary for doing work for which he was unfit. That was the whole object and aim of the Bill. In the Metropolitan Police the men were generally enlisted at about 25 years of age. Then, at 55, the men would have had about 30 years' service; and that was the extreme time they were fit for that service. What was the use, then, of keeping them after they had reached 55, and paying them 25s., 30s., 35s., or 40s. a-week? It was wisdom on the part of the Representatives of the ratepayers, and it certainly was the duty of the Representatives of the public purse, out of which half the charge for the police was defrayed, that some system should be established by which that waste could not take place. There were a good many cases in which men were kept who really ought to be superannuated. The hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had reminded him that he was always in favour of the localities dealing with those matters, and so he was; and he did not think there was anything in the Bill inconsistent with that view. The Bill had been carefully framed, and he had given the draftsman instructions, as he always did, never to let the words "Secretary of State" appear in the Bill if he could avoid it. He had no desire to extend the authority of the Home Office. He hated Departmental centralization. He hated the influence of London Offices, which he believed produced a great deal more harm than good in the administration, of 1729 the country. He thought the more they could keep the administration of those things in the country itself the better. But, when the Government itself were making a contribution to local funds, it was a clear economical principle that they should see that the money was applied to an efficient Force; and if the local authorities of a county or a borough chose, under a miserable and mistaken policy, to keep men in the police who were worn out, rendering the Force so far inefficient, the Government ought not to contribute the large sum it did in aid of local funds for their maintenance. The Government, by that Bill, was not seeking to interfere in each county with the administration of the Police Force; it. was only laying down a general rule, which he ventured to say was consistent with sound political economy—namely, not to retain men who were, to all appearance, worn out; for of those who knew anything of the question, how many could say that a policeman after the age of 55 years, and who had seen 25 years of service, was other than worn out in his feet by the number of hours spent in walking? That was the principle of the Bill. It was said the measure would increase the rates. He did not believe it would increase them at all. If a county kept its Police Force on a proper footing, and did not give 25s. or 30s. a-week to cripples, he believed it would not have to pay a farthing more than it paid now. With reference to the objection that had been urged that they were putting money on the rates, he wished to point out that they were not doing that, because the money was on the rates already. For example, Gloucestershire paid £1,262, another county paid £3,000 out of the rates, while the whole contribution by the counties of England amounted to £70,000. It had been stated that there was a difficulty in getting men for the Metropolitan Police Force. They had not the least difficulty in getting men for the Metropolitan Police Force. At present they had the names of 2,000 men on the books who were ready to enter that Force any day. It was the greatest security they had for the efficiency of the Force when they put the men under the cognizance that their pensions would depend on their good behaviour. The same principle was found to operate in the Civil Service, where the thing that a man most feared 1730 was the loss of his pension. Under these circumstances, and with the understanding that the matter was open to full discussion afterwards, he hoped the House would now economize time, and consent to the second reading of the Bill.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the altered tone of the remarks which he had addressed to the House on the second reading of the Bill. He (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) did not think it necessary either to oppose the second reading of the measure, or to quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman in consequence of the speech he had delivered. He was prepared to agree with all that had been said as to the economy and usefulness of a system of pensions. It did not necessarily follow, however, that because they approved of a system of pensions that, therefore, they were bound to approve the particular system which the Government had brought forward in this Bill, or the source whence those pensions were to be derived. He was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that full opportunity would be afforded particularly for a discussion of the latter subject. There were two points, however, which he wished to refer to. He could not quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there was no interference in the Bill with local government. There was interference with the local authorities as to the mode of granting pensions, and as to the necessity in many cases of granting pensions at all; and he must confess that, to his mind, even with the modifications which had been made, the interference was greater than it need be. They must bear in mind the fact that the duties of the police in some parts of England were different from those in other parts, and that a man who might be properly superannuated in the Metropolis or in any of our large towns would, if stationed in the rural districts, be both at that time and for many subsequent years perfectly capable of discharging his duties. Therefore, to lay down a hard-and-fast rule, under which a man not exceeding the ago of 50 years, after serving 25 years, would be entitled absolutely without any discretion on the part of the local authority to a pension, was a provision which ought not to be 1731 inserted in a Bill of this kind. Then, with regard to the sources from which the money was to come, the right hon. Gentleman had stated that the Bill did not impose any burden on the rates. He would admit that in many counties, where there had been a desire to act fairly towards the Police Force, the rates would not necessarily be charged under the Bill to any very great extent more than they were at present. His own impression, however, was that they would be, because a greater discretion was given to grant a pension, and the amount would probably be increased. It therefore increased the liability of the rates to be burdened; and he hoped that when they came to discuss this point better reasons would be given than had hitherto been urged why that liability should be imposed on the rates alone. There was a strong feeling prevailing in many parts of England that no increase should be placed on the rates at the present moment. He trusted that when they came to discuss the provisions of the Bill in Committee they might have some proposal placed before them which would, at least, impose on the Treasury as great a proportion of the pensions as it now bore of the maintenance of the police. If the country benefited, as it would do, from an increase in the efficiency of the Police Force, arising from a better system of pensions, he did not think it was quite reasonable not to impose any further burden, on the Treasury.
§ GENERAL ALEXANDER
said, he felt bound to return his grateful thanks to the Government for having brought forward this Bill a third time, and must be allowed to express the hope that, whatever measures they might drop, they would, at least, not allow this measure to drop. It would be much better, he thought, that the Government should not bring in a Bill of this kind at all, rather than they should raise hopes and cause disappointment by bringing it forward every successive Session only to allow it to be dropped. He hoped, therefore, that, if necessary, the Government would keep the House together till Christmas to pass the Bill. This question had been before Parliament for a long time. During the late Government a Committee had inquired into the matter, and they had agreed to the principle 1732 of giving an indefeasible right of pension to constables after a certain number of years' service, say 25 years. The reason for that would be seen, when they remembered that constables were forced to contribute 2½ per cent of their pay to the pension fund. This matter of police superannuation was even in a more unsatisfactory state in Scotland than in England, for the 3,600 Scotch constables had, at present, no pension at all. As a consequence, Scottish constables often left the Scotch Force, and enlisted in the English Police for the sake of getting some sort of pension. He hoped the Government would press the Bill forward, so that it might pass this Session.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, he thought the financial basis of the Bill was unsound. Every superannuation fund was actuarially unsound, for the simple reason that the number of persons in each Police Force taken separately was too small to form a secure system of insurance, and superannuation and insurance were the same thing. The Bill proposed to maintain this unsound system. The true and economical remedy was for all the funds to be thrown together, and for the Government to guarantee the loss, which, under such an arrangement, would not be very serious. He objected to the pensions being guaranteed out of the rates. He also wished to know why the whole of the burden should be placed on land alone? The police took care of a man's personal property, and not of his land; and, therefore, it was unfair to place all the burden upon land. The Government ought to be especially careful on matters of local taxation, as they had already been beaten once or twice on that question.
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
said, he was not all averse to the principle of the Bill; but he had calculated that if it passed in the state in which the House now had it before it, the loss to the ratepayers in England and Scotland would be something like £200,000. He had taken the trouble to procure a Return of 10 typical counties and 10 typical boroughs, showing how the sums now rained were appropriated. His object in procuring the Returns was to ascertain whether the ratepayers would gain or lose by this transfer, and whether any fees at present paid into the 1733 Exchequer would be transferred to the superannuation fund. He found that in this last respect the gain was almost nil. The total fees for 10 counties and 10 boroughs were £35,000; of this amount £14,000 only was applied to the Police Superannuation Fund, and £20,000 to the county and borough rates. If this £20,000 was transferred to the Police Superannuation Fund, an equivalent must be raised from rates. If these 10 counties were typical of the 56 counties in England and Wales, the loss of the ratepayers would be £95,000; and if these 10 boroughs were typical of the 145 boroughs, the loss of the ratepayers would be £43,000. In Scotland there was no superannuation fund at present, and he reckoned that the establishment of the proposed scheme there would amount to a tax upon the ratepayers of at least £50,000 a-year. In his opinion, that would be a very great aggravation of the grievance already existing, and he did think it a very great hardship. After all, pension was only deferred pay; and if the principle that the Government should pay half the police were carried out, the Government ought to pay half the superannuation.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.