HC Deb 14 April 1886 vol 304 cc1570-82

Order for Second Reading read.


, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that one of the most valuable bodies of public servants in the Kingdom, the police constables, had for a long time past been expecting the law in regard to their pensions to be altered and their positions improved; and if he succeeded in obtaining the assent of the House to the Motion, and could induce the Government to take up the subject, he should be glad to postpone the further stages of his Bill until the Government brought forward theirs, so that they might hope to have that question settled during the present Session. There existed a considerable amount of what, in his opinion, was just dissatisfaction in the Police Force of this country at the way in which they had long been treated in reference to that matter. The police complained that they were bound to contribute towards funds from which they were not really certain to derive the benefit to which they were entitled after their term of service closed. At present the superannuation funds were made up of contributions from various sources. They included a stoppage of 2½ per cent from the pay of the constables and officers of the force, also fines paid by the constables, or stoppages during illness, and likewise some other sources over which the magistracy of the country had some control. It was true that the superannuation funds of certain of the counties and boroughs were in a satisfactory condition; but the inquiry held from 1875 to 1877 by a Committee on the subject showed conclusively, on the evidence of so eminent a statistician as the late Dr. Farr, that most of those funds, and even those which appeared to be most flourishing at that moment, were practically insufficient to meet the claim to pensions upon them; and that, therefore, the rates would ultimately be the source from which those pensions must be paid. The present, he would admit, was not the time when it was desirable that additional burdens should be thrown on the rates, unless by that increase, should it be necessary, they obtained an equivalent in the way of efficiency and good service. The police complained of the uncertainty of their pensions, and that the effect of the limit as to age was that they could not come before the police committee for the consideration of pension until after they were 60 years of age. A man might enlist at the age of 35. Most of them enlisted either at about 19 or 20; and yet the man who had entered at 35, after a short service, could come before the committee and ask that a pension should be charged on the rates for his benefit; while the man who had entered at 20 had to serve 40 years in the force before he was entitled to make that appeal. At any moment, too, after the man had served, perhaps, 20 or 25 years, it was within the power—though the power might not be exercised, except in very rare cases—of the police authorities in counties and the watch committees in boroughs, to dismiss a man and send him away from the service causing him to lose every benefit to which his contributions led him to think he was entitled. All the evidence taken before the Committee went to show that the men were very anxious for a certainty of pension. Colonel Fraser, the able Commissioner of the Police of the City, had said— If they knew that they had a right to claim a pension, instead of going away when their health was comparatively good, they would be induced to remain. Constable Chambers, of the Buckinghamshire Force, had said— The feeling of the men is, they would like a certainty—a certain amount of pension after a certain amount of service. I have known many a man who has been in the force four or five years—say, just as he has got useful to the force—'It is all uncertain: I shall leave and look out for something better, where I do not have to get up at night.' If there had been a certain pension, it would have been an inducement to several men that I knew to remain. Mr. Wilkinson, Chairman of the Police Committee of Durham, had also stated that he attached the greatest possible importance to this question of certainty of pension, and that he was quite certain, from seeing what he had seen of the men who joined, as a member of the Police Committee, that the men were deterred from joining because they had their doubts about the pension. That had also been the general opinion of Chief Constables, Inspectors, sergeants, and numerous gentlemen representing police committees in the counties, the whole of their evidence going to show that the present uncertainty of pension was a great subject of complaint. He would ask the House whether, from the economical point of view, in connection with the charge to be made on the taxation of the country, he was not justified in saying that not only the Police Force, but the country would gain by the fact of there being a certainty of pension? Colonel Henderson, in his evidence before the Committee, had stated that the cost of making an efficient policeman in the Metropolitan Force was about £200 a-man, and the training of men cost nearly as much in the counties. He (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), therefore, maintained that it would be economical to do something in the way of fixity of pensions to induce trained men to remain in the force. As to the other complaint, a mass of evidence was taken by the Select Committee which considered the question of police superannuation some time ago; and, in the main, it amounted to this—that 25 years' service represented almost the limit of real police service; but a really efficient man would not go out of the force at 40 or 45 years to begin a new employment while he had the power of remaining in the force on full pay. It would be of great service that a man should be pensioned when he was used up; because, under the present system, a man very often felt that he was not equal to his work, but dared not leave the service, because he lost everything by doing so. The efficiency of the police was thus diminished; the heads of the police did not like to discharge a man because they thought it unfair; and the man would not leave, on account of the terrible drawback of losing his chance of pension. The next question which the Committee had had to consider, and which the House would have to consider, if certainty of pension were to be granted on the ground of economy, or on the ground that it met the just demands of the Police Force, was the period at which that fixity of pension should be allowed to be obtained. A great deal of evidence had also been obtained upon this point by the Committee, and, of course, in that evidence there had been a certain variety of opinion; but, in the main, the weight of evidence had come to this—that 25 years' service was the proper time at which a man might claim a pension as of right, while the scale might be adopted which at present was enjoyed in the Metropolitan Force. If they could arrive at the term at which the real efficiency of a policeman terminated, he maintained that it was a question both of economy and efficiency to give him power to retire at that period. There could be no doubt they would get a greater amount of efficiency from their police under the Bill. As to the argument that they should not increase the taxation of the localities, that did not altogether apply to this matter, because the economy secured by the Bill would be an ample equivalent. If the scheme was treated in a liberal way, there would not be a large increase in the pension list. As to the existing defects in the pension list, he would point out that provisions for remedying them were inserted in the Bill; and he hoped a better fate was in store for it than awaited it last year, and that the House would at last do tardy justice. As he had said, he would welcome an announcement from the Government that they would take up the question and carry it to a just conclusion; and if the House would agree to the principle of the Bill by reading it a second time, he would be glad to leave the matter in the hands of the Government. The right hon. Baronet concluded by moving the second reading.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)


said, he rose early in the debate, because he wished to make an appeal which he did not think would be regarded as an unreasonable one. He had listened with great attention to all that the right hon. Baronet opposite had said, and he hoped he would allow him to congratulate him on having put his case so clearly before the House. The whole of the facts were very well stated in the Report of the Committee, and his right hon. Friend had explained the salient points of the Report; and he (Mr. Childers) was very glad that his right hon. Friend had had an opportunity of making a statement which could not but be in general satisfactory to the House, to the force, and to the country. The position of the matter was this—his right hon. Friend had the opportunity of making that admirable statement to the House. On the other hand, the Government had promised the House that soon after Easter they would bring in a Bill, solving, as they hoped, the whole of this question. The only points referred to especially by his right hon. Friend were points which would be brought up in debate by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Oswestry Division of Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton), who had given Notice of an Amendment, and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Biggleswade Division of Bedfordshire (Mr. Magniac). In general terms the House knew what must follow. There would be a very long debate; and, under those circumstances, the appeal he would make to his right hon. Friend was this—he (Mr. Childers) had shown that he was not opposed—very much the reverse—to the general propositions brought forward, although, of course, he could not commit himself to any details. He said more; the Committee went very closely into the whole of this question, and he should rather be inclined to give great weight to the recommendations of the Committee. Having said that much, and also that if it was his privilege to continue to sit on the Treasury Bench he would do his best to have his measure passed into law before the end of the present Session, he would appeal to his right hon. Friend to allow the present debate to be now adjourned until he saw the fate of the Government Bill. If the present debate proceeded, the greater part of the afternoon would be occupied with it; and probably, after all, the course he suggested should be taken now would be adopted then. By adopting that course, his right hon. Friend would prevent a waste of time by a duplicate debate.

MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

said, he was sure his right hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) and the House generally would be gratified to hear the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers); and he (Mr. Howard Vincent) was certain that his right hon. Friend would be only too glad to adopt any course that would tend to facilitate legislation on the subject. He thought, however, that if the debate were allowed to proceed that afternoon it would tend to save the time of the House in the future. The Police Force would be pleased to hear that the Home Secretary was so favourably disposed towards the measure, and that he was prepared to carry out the pledge he had previously given, and that had been promised by many of his Predecessors, to deal with this question at as early a date as possible. But it would materially facilitate the enactment of a measure in the course of the present Session if the House now consented to read the Bill a second time. For no less than 18 years the Police Force of the country had been promised by successive Home Secretaries, by successive Governments, that the matter of their pensions should be placed upon a proper basis, and during all that long period they had been waiting patiently for a settlement. They had been treated with many complimentary phrases and many promises; but their interests remained to this day ignored. It was not only the police themselves who were suffering; the public interest was also deeply concerned in the settlement of this long-deferred question. Brave and loyal men as were the police of the country, rarely shirking their duty, however arduous, however dangerous, it was but natural that they should feel that the long delay of this matter constituted a serious and a legitimate grievance. They would be more than human if they never counted the cost and reward of devotion to duty. It was, indeed, but a small incentive to courage, in the dead of the night, against the armed burglar, or the skulking assassin, for the solitary policeman, equipped with only a truncheon, to feel that, if he was injured, there was no certain provision for him—if he was killed there was no assured resort for his widow and his children, but the workhouse. The duty of the soldier was discharged under the eye and leadership of his superior, amid circumstances of great excitement and the blare of trumpets; but the duty of the policeman was usually performed alone, and often in the face of much difficulty and prejudice, and the guarantee that the public had that the policeman would discharge his duty faithfully was almost wholly in his integrity and honour. Surely, under those circumstances, the interest as well as the duty of the public lay in making proper provision for those on whom their security so largely depended. As he (Mr. Howard Vincent) once heard the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer say— It should be our business, as well as our pleasure, to take care of those who take care of us. On the same occasion, which was early in 1881, the right hon. Gentleman, who now controlled the purse of the nation, said— I hope that at an early period it may be my grateful office to add to their comfort and content by supplying a defect which has long been felt, in placing on a fixed and satisfactory footing, not only in London, but throughout the country, the superannuation and pension of those who had spent the best days of their lives in the service of their countrymen. Under the existing system the question of pension depended entirely upon the generosity, or not seldom, it might be, the caprice of the police authorities. He need not tell the House that the most active policeman was not always the most popular with the members of a watch committee in a small town. The result consequently was the grossest inequality in the pensions awarded. A case was present to his mind of a man with 21 years' service, who had been terribly injured by 11 stabs from a desperate burglar, receiving only a temporary pension of 15s. a-week for 12 months; while a comrade, who had the good fortune to serve the generous Corporation of Sheffield, received, for only 18 months' service, a gratuity of £30. Then, again, there was no power of giving any allowance whatever to the children of a deceased constable. The inevitable result of that short-sighted policy was to prevent many first-rate men from joining the force, and to afford an inducement to retire at the first possible opportunity, and also, he feared sometimes, though rarely, to avoid doing that which might involve them in difficulty, however urgently necessary. Some objection might be taken to an apparent increase in the local police rates which the Bill before the House might possibly impose; but it might, he submitted, be raised at a later stage, and he was not without hope that the Government might see their way to assist the localities in the matter in the same proportion as they contributed towards the pay and clothing. The police themselves would largely contribute to the pension fund, not only by daily deductions from their pay, but also by fines for misconduct, and by the performance of, so to say, extra duty, and to an amount considerably over £100,000 a-year. They had waited for years and years with the utmost patience for that measure, the justice of which had been repeatedly and emphatically recognized. He ventured, therefore, to hope that the House would now lose no further time in settling the matter, and that they would allow the Bill to be read a second time.

MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)

said, that, though in favour of the pensions and gratuities to the police being raised, and of the Police Force being placed upon the footing most agreeable to them, he objected to his right hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) putting his hand, as it were, into other people's pockets for the purpose of carrying out his object. His right hon. Friend represented the taxpayers, and he was asking the taxpayers to put their hands into the pockets of the ratepayers in order to do a good service to the police. He (Mr. Stanley Leighton) desired in every way to support the object; but he thought the means of carrying it out should come from the pockets of the taxpayers. He was not by any means re-assured by the announcement of the Home Secretary that he would bring in a Bill which would go further than the Bill of his right hon. Friend the Member for the Epping Division of Essex. The Committee which sat some 10 years ago, and of which his right hon. Friend was Chairman, did not call before them a single representative of the ratepayers, but confined the evidence almost entirely to that of policemen and those who represented the police. In this revolutionary period it was, no doubt, a good thing to make friends with the police. Parliament had already given them the franchise, and it was now proposed to give them something in the shape of increased pay; but when his right hon. Friend urged that every policeman should be superannuated at the age of 46 if he had given 20 years' service, he did not know what the Essex Hunt would say if masters of hounds were proposed to be superannuated at that age. His right hon. Friend asked the House to accept a Bill of 35 clauses, repealing 15 Acts of Parliament—a prodigious proposal, such as, he believed, had never before been brought forward by a private Member. It was 10 years since the Committee of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member sat, and during that 10 years the Government with which his right hon. Friend was connected was in Office for six years, yet they never chose to grapple with the question. He (Mr. Stanley Leighton) thought the police had ample grounds to complain of both the Governments which during that period were in power for not attending to their complaints. A similar measure to that then under discussion was brought forward by the late Government; but several pages of Amendments were placed on the Paper by Liberal Members, by Irish Members, and by Conservative Members. Sir Massey Lopes objected to it because it increased local burdens, the hon. Member for Herefordshire (Mr. Duckham) objected that it placed upon the local exchequer burdens which ought to be borne by the Imperial Exchequer, and Colonel Kingscote objected to it because it broke through the bargain of 1874, by which half the pay and half the cost of clothing was to be provided by the State. His right hon. Friend had said truly that pensions were nothing more than deferred pay; but he omitted to provide that half the in- creased pensions and gratuities should be borne by the Imperial Exchequer. The Local Authorities were trusted to enlist the men and to govern them; but they were not to be trusted when it became a question of removing them from the force and pensioning them. His right hon. Friend, it appeared to him, was proposing a Bill to prevent arbitrary evictions from the force, to provide policemen with fixity of tenure, and to give them a claim to unexhausted improvements in the amount of money they had contributed to the police fund. He (Mr. Stanley Leighton) was in favour of their having the benefit of the unexhausted improvements in the pension fund; but the increased payment should come out of the general Exchequer of the country, and not out of the local exchequer. No distinction was made in regard to the maximum and minimum amount of pension where incapacity arose from accidental injury or from injury caused by violence; and he maintained that there was no branch of the Public Service in which, in case of temporary injury, a pension on full pay was granted. A man might be unfit for night duty, and might be perfectly fitted for other work, yet, according to the Bill, that man would have precisely the same pension as one who was wholly incapacitated for service. The Committee had considered two ways of dealing with pensions, one being the amalgamation scheme of putting all the police funds together and administering them through one central office, and the other the plan of doing away with the funds altogether and placing the pensions entirely upon the rates, The Bill adhered to neither of these proposals. It was economically wrong to keep up these funds and to supplement them out of the rates. But no one was permitted in those days to object to any course unless he was prepared to put forward an alternative; and the alternative he would suggest, in place of the Bill of his right hon. Friend, was that the matter should be dealt with in the same manner as life insurance. There were 30,000 police in England and 240 funds, making about 13 or 14 policemen to every fund. How could they strike an average when they had so small a number of lives to insure? But 30,000 was quite a sufficiently large number on which to strike an average, and the economical method of dealing with the question of police superannuation was to get all the funds together under a Government Office, and then to make the pensions and gratuities such as his right hon. Friend proposed. In Ireland, where there were 15,000 police, the superannuation was managed by the Government; and he did not see why in England, also, the pension funds should not be provided by the Imperial Government. At present £300,000 a-year was spent in pensions and gratuities, and it might be reckoned that the additional amount which the proposals of the Bill would involve was £200,000, so that a charge of £500,000 would be thrown upon the already over-burdened ratepayers. The ratepayers had a claim, through their Representatives, to say that no Bill should be passed throwing more burdens upon them till the whole question of the taxation of realty and personalty—the whole question between the ratepayer and taxpayer—had been fairly considered by the House of Commons. He was in favour of giving the police increased gratuities and larger pensions, but would give his strongest opposition to any Bill, from whichever side of the House it came, that would place another farthing of charge upon the rates. In his opinion, this was a retrograde measure, unjust in principle, and unsound in finance. He begged to move, as an Amendment to the Motion— That statutory pensions granted by Parliament to the Police ought not to be provided for by imposing fresh burdens on the ratepayers.

MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)

, in seconding the Amendment, said, that, although not favourably disposed to the extension of the system of pensions, he was prepared to admit that, while Civil Service pensions were given, there was no class more deserving of them than the police. He, however, entirely endorsed the opinions of the last speaker, that if an extension was to be given to the system of police pensions, the fund from which the addition should come should be that to which the whole wealth of the country contributed, and not that which was provided from real property alone, which received the least amount of protection from the police, and which, from its nature, least needed their services.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "statutory pensions granted by Parliament to the Police ought not to be provided by imposing fresh burdens on the ratepayers,"—(Mr. Stanley Leighton,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)

said, he did not wish the debate to close without a word of sympathy from the Front Opposition Bench with the proposal that the police should have some greater security than they now enjoyed in the matter of pensions and gratuities. That, he took it, was undisputed. The only point on which any question arose was as to where the burden should fall. That was a question of great difficulty, and it involved, amongst other matters, the question of the incidence of these charges as between local rates and the Imperial Exchequer. He was glad they had had an opportunity of discussing that point; because, though he entertained the opinion that the Bill dealt with a subject which ought, properly and finally, to be dealt with by the responsible Government of the day, a Wednesday afternoon afforded those hon. Members who wished to have the question fully discussed a far better opportunity than would be afforded by a Government Bill brought on at half-past 11 o'clock or 12 o'clock at night. Being of opinion that the question ought to be dealt with by the Government, he was inclined to support the suggestion of the Home Secretary that the final decision on the present Bill should be put off till after the Government had had an opportunity of expounding their proposals. But, in saying that, he would not wish to detract for a moment from the right and title of his right hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) to take up almost an official position on the subject. He hoped the Government would not press for the debate to be too rapidly brought to a close, because he had a strong feeling that it would serve to bring out the differences of opinion that existed, and would clear the ground for the Government when they introduced their own Bill. Without too definitely committing himself upon the question whether the change should fall upon Imperial taxation or local funds, or other funds, he thought they should contend for three distinct principles—namely, that the police should be put in a position of greater certainty in regard to deferred pay, gratuities, and pensions; that the interests of the ratepayers should be sufficiently protected from persons being improperly placed upon the non-effective list by the medical claims for that purpose being searchingly attended to; and that the liability to contribute should carry with it the right to a voice in the management of the fund. He hoped they would be able to arrive at a decision on this vexed question before very long.


said, that his object had been served, for the discussion which had taken place had elicited from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary not only that he was favourable to the object of the Bill, but that the Bill which was to come from the Government would deal with all the points which, in justice to the police, he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had dealt with himself, and would also contemplate the method by which the funds were to be raised in the spirit of the Amendment. He hoped the Government would take it up in that spirit, and not put additional burdens on the ratepayers. He was satisfied with the course the discussion had taken, and still more with the promise of the right hon. Gentleman; and he would, therefore, move that the debate be now adjourned.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson,)—put, and agreed to.

Debate adjourned till Tuesday 4th May.