§ [SECOND READING].
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)
was glad that this Bill had been brought forward at an hour at which it could be discussed. To understand it properly it was necessary to bear in mind the provisions of the Act of 1890. Under that Act the police in England and Wales received better treatment with regard to pensions than any other class of Civil servant. A policeman who becomes incapacitated, and has not served for fifteen years, gets a gratuity on a medical certificate, and after fifteen years service, on a medical certificate of infirmity of mind or body, he gets a pension. After twenty-five years, without any medical certificate at all, he becomes entitled under that Act to retire on a pension. Two pension scales are laid down by the Act—a maximum scale, which gives a pension equal to two-thirds of the officer's pay, after twenty-six years service, and a minimum scale, which gives a pension equal to two-thirds pay after thirty-five years service. The reason for having two scales was that in large cities and towns the labours of the police were more irksome than in country places. Parliament trusted the local authorities to give effect to that principle. Again, the local police authorities were empowered to fix an age for retirement, which was not to be below fifty, or over fifty-five, the object being to meet the varying conditions of service. But how had the Act worked out in practice? The police possessed a very powerful organisation, which had so acted upon the local authorities that he believed in every case the maximum scale had been adopted, whilst no age limit for retiring was fixed, so that every policeman was entitled to retire after twenty-six years service. A policeman was appointed probably at the age of nineteen or twenty, and retired in full manhood, at forty-six and forty-seven years of 507 age. In Scotland it was different. A man did not become entitled to his full two-thirds pay pension until he had completed thirty-four years service, and had reached the age of fifty-five, or, in the case of rank above a sergeant, sixty. Recently Scottish policemen complained that they did not enjoy the superior conditions obtaining in England, and a Bill was brought in to put them on an equal footing. The Bill was remitted to a Select Committee but the local authorities strongly pressed on the Committee the desirability of leaving them no discretion in these matters, as they feared that the pressure they would be subjected to from police organisations would result in the maximum practically becoming the minimum, as had proved the case in England.
There was another aspect of this question which should not be lost sight of, and that was the increasing burden on the local rates. The pensions were paid out of a permanent fund, made up of from three sources, two of which were practically stationary—the Exchequer grant, the local fund contributed to by fines appropriated by Statute for the purpose—and the contributions of the men. The latter was a comparatively small item, for, although the pensions paid in 1902 amounted to £433,752, the contributions of the police, representing 2½ per cent, of their wages, totalled only £64,681, and, even if those contributions should in future years aggregate a larger sum, the burden on the fund would be proportionately heavier. The deficiency which had to be made up out of local rates in 1901 was £78,909, increasing in 1902 to £93,607 or 18 per cent. Seeing that the Act had only been in operation fourteen years, and that, according to actual calculations, it will take about thirty years to reach the high-water mark of expenditure, it was apparent that the burden on local rates would be considerably heavier. The question was a serious one. The local authorities were themselves to blame, for they had failed to carry out the intentions of Parliament, and were allowing policemen to retire at forty-six or forty-seven years of age, on a full pension. Such a state of affairs was 508 never contemplated by Parliament. The ratepayers were overburdened with rates for police pensions in order that men might retire at forty-six years of age in the enjoyment of a pension for life equal to two-thirds of their salaries. It was not the fault of Parliament, as the Act gave the local authorities power to discriminate; the local police authorities alone were to blame for having allowed themselves to be pressed in the matter. These men, having obtained their pensions, either took a licensed house or competed in the labour market with the men who had to pay the rates out of which the pensions were provided.
If the principle of the Bill were accepted, every other pensioner in the State would quote it as a precedent, and claim the same rights as were accorded to policemen. The real remedy lay in the hands of the local authorities without any interference from Parliament. The existing schemes would have to be observed with regard to the men who engaged under them, but new scales could be adopted to take effect forthwith, and so the difficulty would be got over. The Bill would enable local authorities, on the plea that it was an economy to the rates, to keep men on, giving them half-pay in addition to their pensions, instead of bringing in fresh men. The proposal was conceived simply in the interests of the superior officers of the force who desired to continue in the service at increased pay. The men who continued in the service might begin at half-pay, but it would not be long before the contention was put forward that the pensions were deferred pay and ought to be paid at once, and that if the men did the work they ought to receive the proper wage, in addition to their pensions. One, local authority would be pressed to give half-pay, another two-thirds, and another the full wage, and then all local authorities would be driven to adopt the same course. Organisations of every kind were formed in this country to promote their own interests, and attempts were made to rush Bills of this kind, and this was just the sort of Bill he had had his eye on from the first. He submitted that the Bill ought to be remitted to a Select Committee in order that the circumstances of the whole country might 509 be ascertained, with reference both to the present as well as to the probable future cost of the police. If the Government would agree to that course the Bill would have served a useful purpose, because it would enable local authorities to realise their exact position.
§ SIR JOHN DORINGTON (Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury)
said that so far from increasing the liabilities of county councils and local authorities, the Bill would have a tendency to diminish them, because men who now took their pensions because they feared the possibility of losing them if they continued in the service, would not, if the Bill were passed, have the occasion for leaving. Under the provisions of this Bill they would be able to continue in the service without running any of the risks of forfeiture which were contained in the present Police Act, and the conditions of forfeiture were not to apply after a man became entitled to a pension if he decided to continue in the service. The suggestion of the hon. Member for Mid Lanark with regard to men being paid their pensions and half-pay seemed to be a little bit absurd. A man would not serve unless he got his proper pay, which was much in excess of his pension.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said his point was that, according to the arrangements, a policeman was to have his pension and in addition half-pay, which, together, would be more than his ordinary pay.
§ SIR JOHN DORINGTON
said this was not in the Bill at all, and it was hardly likely that any local authority would take such a course, because, after forty-eight years of age, a policeman was not worth as much as a younger man except in the upper ranks. Formerly they could not pension constables until a much greater age, and he was very much surprised, as a county administrator, to find how considerable was the number of men who were practically cripples and past work who, as soon as the Police Act of 1890 was passed, very properly came on to the pension list. He was in favour of the Bill, under which there would only be forfeiture of pension when a policeman committed a criminal offence, or an offence more or less criminal, and the 510 ordinary petty offences against discipline would not entail the forfeiture of pensions.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
thought some explanation of this Bill ought to be given by the Government; as for the Bill being in the direction of economy he did not think that was so. If a constable gave further service after his pension was fixed under this Bill, he would be able to take his full pension and no deduction would be made from it as was the case at the present time. There appeared to be little snares in this Bill which ought to have some explanation from the Government.
§ MR. SPEAR (Devonshire, Tavistock)
desired very cordially to support the Bill. He had been struck many times with the large number of men leaving the police force at an age when they were never better fitted for service to the country, and he was prepared to say that many of those men would prefer to remain in the force were it not that, having served the number of years which entitled them to a pension, they felt the risks of remaining in the force, subject to the accidents which might affect their pension, were too great and they consequently retired. He would like to put before the Government the desirability of amending the Bill by raising the number of years a policeman had to serve. It would be unfair to attempt that with reference to the present members of the force, because they entered the service upon the understanding that after twenty-five years they would be entitled to a pension. But in the case of all recruits he suggested that the number of years service entitling a man to a pension should be raised by at least five years. He would be the last to suggest anything likely to interfere with the character or efficiency of the police force, of which he felt proud. There was no lack, however, of recruits—in fact, the whole country-side was cleared of its best men, because of the desire to enter the force. He was constantly asked to recommend men from the country. If the conditions of increased service were exacted from all recruits it would not prevent a sufficient number being forthcoming to maintain the efficiency of the force. Hard as it was to lose the flower of their manhood in the 511 country for the police force a condition should not exist which withdrew from the soil men to a greater extent than was necessary for the maintenance of the efficiency of the police force. Another grievance felt by the people was that after a police constable retired from the force he often felt he must continue to work, and be engaged in business or applied for a situation in competition with other men who had had to remain in the country districts all their lives. That was unfair competition, and from that point of view also he thought the age should be raised with a view to restricting the number of men leaving the force. What he had suggested might, moreover, militate against the burden of the pension fund which was becoming very serious. He should support the Bill because he thought it would do great good. It would retain in the force men who, by experience, were better able to carry out their duties than they had been at any period of their lives. He would go further and raise the age limit of all recruits entering the force. Possibly such a step would not interfere with the efficiency of the force, and it would save the country from an unjust drain upon the healthy manhood which was so much required in every part of business life and especially in argicultural districts.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. CGCHRANE,), Ayrshire, N.
said he entirely agreed with the statement made by the hon. Member for Tavistock as to what the effect of this Bill would prove to be. He had listened with great interest to the statement of the hon. Member for Mid Lanark, and he could not see that he had any particular quarrel with his general statement. He had described the Act of 1890 with considerable accuracy, but as far as he could gather he did not deal at all with the Bill now before the House except incidentally. The hon. Member had pointed out what was the difference in Scotland with regard to pensions, and he had shown that a pension could not be earned in Scotland except by a medical certificate. The hon. Member took considerable credit for being the only Scotch Member who 512 resisted the attempts being made to place the Scotch police force on the same footing as the English. The result was that the Scotch police force who were equally deserving had to suffer, because instead of getting their pensions automatically after twenty-five years service they must obtain a medical certificate, or serve until they were fifty-five years of age. He did not think the Scottish police owed any debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Mid Lanark for his action in this matter. The police pension funds had been growing every year, and the amount was increasing at such a rate that it became a matter for serious consideration. The question was only indirectly dealt with in this Bill. He shared with the hon. Member his desire for reasonable economy upon this question. With regard to the proposals made by West Sussex, it did not come under this Bill, but it was a scheme which had been carried out at Liverpool where they had fuller powers. Under the West Sussex scheme the proposals were not on all fours with the proposals under this Bill. Under the Act of 1890 a police constable had the right to obtain his pension after twenty-five years service. After that he might make any other arrangement he liked and there was nothing in this Bill that would affect that right.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
said that a constable coming from Plymouth might go over to Dover and he would take his pension with him, but the Plymouth people might suspend his pension so long as he held office there. That was the law at the present time, but under the present Bill when a constable went from Plymouth to Dover he would not be liable to any withdrawal or deduction in regard to his pension.
§ MR. COCHRANE
said that in the case of a police constable having taken his pension after twenty-five years service and joining another Police Force it fell to the Watch Committee of that Force to make what bargain they liked. On this point the Bill did not affect the existing law as regards his relations with the pensioning authority.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
said his point was that under the existing law there was 513 power in regard to the pension for past services which he had earned under the law of 1890, for the local authority or the Watch Committee could reduce him if he got another appointment, but this Bill did away with that power.
§ MR. COCHRANE
said the police pensions were creating a burden, and a very serious burden, upon the rates. The annual contribution from Imperial sources to counties and boroughs was £150,000 per annum. In addition to that 2½ per cent, was taken off the pay of the policemen, and the rest was made up from the rates. The total expenditure in 1902 in England and Wales was £434,737. There was an annual excess of expenditure over income of £93,627. Any suggestion that could be made which would lessen this growing burden was worthy of the consideration of the House. He thought he could assure the House that this Bill, in a small way, would produce that result. If they added to the expenditure of the counties and boroughs in England and Wales the London expenditure, amounting to £406,448, the annual deficiency was £170,000. That showed this was a very serious matter. The statutory scale for pensions under the law as it at present stood was as follows: (a) For fifteen years completed (but less than twenty-one) with a medical certificate, not more than one-fiftieth, and not less than one-sixtieth of his annual pay for each year of approved service; (b) for twenty-one years completed (but less than twenty-five) with a medical certificate, not more than twenty-fiftieths and not less than twenty-sixtieths for each year up to twenty, and not more than two-fiftieths, and not less than two-sixtieths for each year above twenty; and (c) for twenty-five years and upwards, without any medical certificate, not more than thirty-one-fiftieths and not less than thirty-sixtieths, and not more than three-fiftieths, and not less than one-sixtieth for each year above twenty-five, the maximum not to be exceed two-thirds. The pension was, of course, calculated on his pay at the time of retirement.
What were the objects aimed at by the Bill now before the House? In the first place it was a permissive Bill. The police authority might, or might 514 not, take advantage of its provisions. Did the hon. Member object to that? It surely was a right thing that a police authority, if they wished to retain the services of a good police constable, who was in good health, and physically capable, should be able to hold out some inducement which would, at the same time, have the effect of lessening the burden on the rates. But the policemen at present felt insecurity of tenure. A man who had earned his pension was afraid that if he committed some small offence in respect of discipline he might be dismissed ipso factoand lose the pension he had earned. That was a bar which prevented many excellent men continuing in the service. What the Government hoped was that arrangements would be made by the police authority to guarantee that a man, after twenty-five years service, should, if he continued in the service, receive his pension without having it reduced for mere breaches of discipline. He would only lose the right to it for the serious offences mentioned in Section 8 of the Act of 1890, namely, (a) conviction of a criminal offence and sentence to penal servitude, or more than three months hard labour, or more than twelve months imprisonment without hard labour; (b) association with thieves or reputed thieves; (c) refusing to assist police in detecting crime, apprehending criminals, and suppressing disturbances; (d) carrying on illegal occupation, or occupation in which improper use is made of the man's former position as a police officer. But if he had not committed any of these offences his right to pension should be, so to say, earmarked so that it could not be taken away from him. That would give him security of tenure which would be of the greatest value. This would result, he hoped, in keeping a good many men in the service. These proposals had been considered by many of those who were most competent to give advice on the subject. The police authorities held a conference in 1898, and it was largely on the experience they had brought to bear on the subject, and the recommendations they offered, that this Bill was drafted. They urged the Secretary of State—To provide that, if a constable remains in a force after the date upon which he becomes 515 entitled to a pension, such constable shall not be liable to forfeit such pension, or to have it reduced except for some offence mentioned in Section 8 of the Act of 1890.The Bill, if carried, would permit the police authorities to induce specially selected men to continue in the service. Under Section 10 of the Act of 1890 they were still liable to dismissal for breach of discipline, but under Section 8 they could only lose their pension for serious offences. In his opinion the Bill would add considerably to the efficiency of the force, and it would reduce the rates, because more men would continue to serve after twenty-six years. A man who had gained all that experience was, for certain purposes, exceedingly valuable, but he would not during the time of his additional service be earning further pension. If a man was allowed to take his pension and go, it would be necessary to engage a fresh constable, and for three or four years while gaining experience he was practically of little use in the force. The result of the present proposal would be advantageous in two ways. It would be possible to retain a man in the service without increasing his pension, and it would not be necessary to employ a young and inexperienced constable. He hoped the House would agree to the Second Beading of the Bill. If the details required adjustment, though he did not think that was the case, that could be done in the Committee on Trade to which he hoped the Bill would be sent.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said this was an example of a class of Bill of which there had already been two or three, and which were wrong in principle. Of course it was right that the police of the country should be, to some extent, under the Home Office, as it was necessary that the Home Office should be responsible for their efficiency. But it was not necessary that the Home Secretary should prescribe every detail as to years of service or systems of tension and other similar matters. Such arrangements, when they were applied indifferently to all districts tended towards extravagance. He thought a certain latitude might be allowed to local authorities to prepare schemes, and to provide themselves with an economical police force—greater latitude than was permitted under the Acts 516 now in force. It was the sense of the oppressive burden that fell on localities which had probably induced the Government to bring forward this Bill. It would effect a small economy. It would however, only go a short way in that direction. He thought the House should consider in connection with the Acts of 1890 and 1893 whether this subject should be nibbled at, and whether it would not be better to deal with it in a comprehensive piece of legislation. There would be no great difficulty in doing this. No one would suggest that the men now in the force should be deprived of anything, but new men were constantly being brought in, and he thought a Bill could be passed to give local authorities power to prepare schemes for themselves which would conduce to economy. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had carried out a scheme by which a great economy was being effected in connection with the Irish police. The right hon. Gentleman had arranged for a system of progressive reductions in recruiting, which, in five or six years, would amount to no less than £250,000. That had been done without the slightest injustice to a single man in the force. He had put down a blocking Motion with respect to this Bill, but he would not move it if he received from the hon. Member a promise that the suggestion he had made would be considered.
§ MR. LOUGH
said the hon. Member shook his head. He hoped, however, the hon. Member would give some attention to his Amendment when the next stage was reached. A strong feeling of injustice was felt by the members of the police force in London because parts of their pay and emoluments came under heads which prevented them counting for pension. It seemed to him to be a mean thing for the authorities to give a fixed and permanent increase of pay in a form which would be open to this objection. It had created a great deal of discontent and considerable litigation in the administration of the police law in many parts of the country. The case of an officer, who had served in the House of Lords for several years, and who had received during all that 517 period an increase of 7s. a week in pay, had been the subject of litigation. This officer found, when he came to retire, that this substantial part of his emoluments did not count for pension. The final decision was against him, but in the Appeal Court, as well as in the lower Court, the judges expressed great sympathy with his difficulties. Surely this was a very questionable system. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would consider this point fairly. He was not against the principle of the Bill, nor did he think anybody was against it, as all should be willing to adopt any expedient which would promote economy. He thought it would be far better for the Government to withdraw this Bill and bring in a broader measure dealing with the whole question. The hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had admitted that there were defects in it. He thought the House ought to be indebted to his hon. and learned friend the Member for Dumfries for showing that no provision was made for the case of a man who had qualified for a pension and then served for a single year, but after that removed into a new district. These defects would affect materially the economic working of the measure if passed into law.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said he agreed with his hon. friend in his criticism that there was something in the mode of calculating service for pension which was not what it ought to be. But that was not a reason for opposing the Bill altogether. The same remark applied to the criticism of the late Attorney-General. The case for the Bill was a very simple one. Local authorities, he knew, desired, as a matter of economy, to retain the services of constables whose training had been paid for by them, but who took their pension as soon as it was due, because they believed that their pension might be imperilled, by staying on, if they committed a small offence. He thought the Bill would tend to economy on the part of the local authorities and would remedy an injustice.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said that he had had a good deal to do with the passing of the Bill of 1890, which he knew had imposed a burden on 518 the ratepayers. But that Bill had, nevertheless, been very beneficial to the public, because it had induced a very improved class of recruits to come into the police service, especially in London. The hon. Member opposite asked for whose benefit the present Bill had been conceived? It was conceived in the interests of the police force. The hon. Gentleman stated that many men, entitled to their pension under the Act of 1890 took it because they thought they might be deprived of it for a very small offence. But, under the first section of the Act of 1890, it was provided that a constable was not to be pensioned unless he had served twenty-five years; although the minimum age had been left optional to be fixed by the local authority. Very few local authorities had adopted a minimum age, because otherwise they could not attract good and capable men into the service. The point raised as to service in another police force was worthy of consideration, but it would apply in very few cases indeed, because local authorities would be very chary of engaging men who had earned a pension in another force, for these men would naturally be of considerable age, except in very exceptional circumstances. The case of the late chief constable of the police force of Liverpool being engaged as Chief Commissioner of the City Police was quite exceptional, and did not come within the purview of the Bill before the House, which dealt with the police force as a whole. It was unquestionable that many men who had done street duty for twenty-five or twenty-six years were unfit to continue that duty, but there were many employments in the police to which they might be put; and it was a very great pity indeed that, under the provisions of the Act of 1890, the services of such men, of considerable ability, should be lost to the public the moment they were entitled to draw their pensions. He was quite sure that this Bill, if passed, would conduce to economy and to the interest of the public; and that it would be welcomed by the police themselves. It was not necessary in this Bill to deal with the question of allowances; but he might say that there were many allowances in the police force which were purely temporary such as lodging allowances, or allowance for duty at the Houses of Parliament.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
said that he misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. There would be considerable difficulty in including all allowances in pension rates. He had great pleasure in supporting the Second Reading of the Bill, and he thanked the Government for having introduced it.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said he had two things to say about this Bill. It was rather extraordinary that they should be discussing such a measure at all at this time. They were approaching the end of the first part of the Parliamentary session, when the public business was supposed to be of the most valuable character. Mr. Gladstone used to say that of all the time of the House of Commons, the early part of the session was the most valuable, and should be devoted to the most important public business. At this period the Government usually called upon them to discuss the most important part of their legislative programme. He did not know whether this Bill was the Government's most important measure, but it belonged to the class of Departmental Bills which were usually dealt with at the close and not at the beginning of the session. Did the Government mean by bringing forward this Bill that they had no other important business, or did it mark the close of the session or the close of this Parliament? [Cries of "Oh, oh!"; and ironical OPPOSITION cheers.] He wanted to know what it meant, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite who sneered at his remark could throw any light on the question, they on that side would be greatly obliged to them. This was one of a class of Bills which were rapidly causing suspicion in the minds of the working people of this country. It was a Bill to give pensions to a particular class, and he was bound to make his protest against it. At the last election he told his constituents that he would not assent to any Bill giving new pensions without having the whole subject of pensions raised. The House ought not to be asked to continue to increase pensions to a small and limited class when 520 the great question of general pensions had not been disposed of. They never heard of old-age pensions now; but they did hear of pensions to small and limited classes of the population. He was unwilling to assent to this Bill until the House had before it what the whole burden of pensions was to be. Would the hon. Member in charge of the Bill tell them what was the total amount that would fall on the public funds for police pensions?
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said yes, but it dealt with public expenditure. It was, he continued, relevant to ask what was the whole cost of pensions given in the public service? Could any Gentleman on the Treasury Bench say how many millions the country had to pay? That question was relevant because every pension given to a policeman or any other official was a burden on the class who had been fooled for years with old-age pension schemes. Was the country paying £12,000,000 in pensions? It was difficult to discover the exact amount, but he hoped that some member of the Government would tell them before this Bill was passed.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
said that the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman indicated a view which was rapidly increasing in political circles generally, namely, that the worst way to obtain old-age pensions for all was to give pensions to the few. The reception now given to the Bill was accordingly not as great as that given to it a few years ago. There were several reasons for that. The hon. Member for the Central Division of Sheffield was keenly interested in the measure before the House, and he indicated that the object of the Bill was to remove a genuine grievance under which the police force of the country suffered, and the hon. Member particularised that 521 grievance by describing it as insecurity of tenure. The young men in the police force were, however, against this Bill; and the old men were not particularly enthusiastic in favour of it. The insecurity of tenure of which the police justly complained was not due to causes which the Bill hoped to remove, but was due to the fact that a civilian force, who should be controlled by men of judicial minds, was being rapidly militarised and governed on bureaucratic lines. If hon. Members doubted his word, let them ask a policeman. The debate also indicated a great diversity of view as to what were the conditions of service which made the police force with its relatively good pay and pension not so popular as it ought to be. The men believed that the Bill would lead to favouritism for the higher officers. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Sheffield indicated that in his speech. The Bill catered more for the men from sub-divisional inspectors upwards than from sub-divisional inspectors downwards. The man who ought to be helped was the man in the street who could never hope to get beyond the rank of sergeant. He had nothing but unqualified praise for the way in which the police did their work. He testified to the full as to their efficiency, zeal, and capacity. With all its defects it was the best police force in the world; but if the hon. and gallant Gentleman had his way he would spoil it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman wanted to militarise everything and everybody.
The Bill would enable men to leave the force at the end of twenty-five years service. Why? Not because they were afraid, if they remained on, that they might commit some serious act of insubordination which would forfeit their pension. The Bill would enable men to continue after twenty-five years without any danger of their pension being forfeited, except by a criminal act; but the men would not remain unless the entire system of police administration were altered. Take the case of a police constable who was a teetotaller and who had a superior officer who was not; or a constable who was against betting and a superior officer who betted. This Bill would enable such a man after twenty-five years of loyal and honest service to be 522 entitled to his pension and remain in the force for another three or four years. That was the only good point in the Bill. Without it a brutal or vindictive superior might report a man with twenty-four years and eleven months service for some trivial cause and thereby deprive him of the pension to which he had partly contributed. The Bill would protect efficient and honest policeman from harsh treatment. The ideal system of treating the police force would be to adopt the Scottish system. He himself thought that the country had too many police. Ireland was now paying £40,000 less for police than it did a few years ago, which showed that the protests of the Irish Members were justified. In London, in his opinion, there were 2,000 more police than were required. He would apply the wages of that surplus number to increasing the pay of the men up to the rank of sergeant. The Bill did not now get the sympathetic reception it received a few years ago, because ex-inspectors and men of higher rank who were on pension were the heads of huge blackmailing societies, the nauseous details of the proceedings of which were to be seen in the newspapers. These men placed at the disposal of these semi-criminal agencies an experience which ought not to be allowed to be used with a State pension at its back; and he intended in Committee to move an Amendment to prevent it.
§ MR. CLAUDE HAY (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
deprecated the attack on the police which had been made by the hon. Member for Battersea.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
asked the indulgence of the House while he resented the insinuation that he had attacked the police. He had stated that he wished the police to have a better status and better pay.
§ MR. CLAUDE HAY
said the only possible inference that could have been drawn from the remarks of the hon. Member for Battersea was that the policeman did not keep his eyes open as he should do with regard to publicans and bookmakers, that is to say, do his duty, because he did not receive £2 per week. He desired to place it on record that that was not the view taken by Members 523 sitting on the Unionist side of the House. So far as the opposite side was concerned, he believed that the statement of the hon. Member was true that the police did not receive the sympathy and consideration on this occasion that they did five years ago, but it was certainly not the case on the Government side of the House. He thought it was only common justice that permanent special service should count for service when the question of pension came to be considered, but he did not believe any good would be done for the public by decreasing the number of the police now in the force. In fact, he thought if such a decrease was made the public service would suffer. He was also of opinion that service after twenty-five years service should count for pension.
§ MR. HELME (Lancashire, Lancaster)
said he desired to support the principle of this Bill, because it served the public interest in two respects. It would secure the possibility of the retention in the force of a number of the men of experience who were at present somewhat inclined to retire directly their term of service was sufficient to enable them to claim a pension. He had served on Standing Joint Committees in the North, and had noticed the considerable number of applications for pension. If they passed this Bill they would relieve the public purse of a large, amount of money which was now paid to men who retired from the force at forty-five or forty-six years of age, and who took their pension at the earliest possible moment rather than remain in the force and take the risk of losing that which they had fairly earned. He could not see why it should be impossible for the Standing Joint Committee to consider further years of service rendered by constables when dealing with the question of pension. It ought to be optional for the Standing Joint Committee to consider that when considering the pension that the constable should take.
§ MR. HEYWOOD JOHNSTONE (Sussex, Horsham)
said the question of the retirement of men in the prime of health and who were perfectly able to carry on their duties as police constables was not so much a matter for the police themselves as for those who had to secure the efficiency of the force. The subject had 524 been before Committees and county councils. Members of the force who had served twenty-five years often thought; it better to take the pensions to which they were entitled and go away, rather than run the risk of forfeiting their pensions. They could not be blamed for that. At the present time they could not remain in the force and make the pension secure. The object of the Bill was to enable them to make the pension secure, and, at the same time, goon in the service if they desired to do so. He believed the Bill would diminish the police charges, and that none of the difficulties, dangers, and extravagancies which hon. Members with an imperfect knowledge of the subject had indicated, were in the least likely to follow in its train.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, etc.
§ MR. AINSWORTH (Argyllshire)
was understood to suggest that the period of service necessary to qualify for a pension should be lengthened, and that the same rule should apply all over the Kingdom, and the period for service in Scotland, which was now longer than in England, be made the same.