HC Deb 06 July 1916 vol 83 cc1727-32

(1) Where before the passing of this Act a police authority has resolved, promised, sanctioned or agreed to make to any constable serving in His Majesty's Forces for the purposes of the present War, payments in excess of the amounts authorised by the Police Constables (Naval and Military Service) Acts, 1914 and 1915, any such excess payments up to the date of the passing of this Act, or such later date as may be determined by the Secretary of State, shall be deemed to have been lawfully made, and the Secretary of State may, if he thinks fit, sanction the continuance of such excess payments after such date as aforesaid, and shall do so in any case where it appears to him that the constable joined His Majesty's Forces in reliance on such resolution, promise, sanction, or agreement, and that the amount of the excess is not unreasonable.

(2) This Section shall apply to Scotland with the substitution of a reference to the Secretary for Scotland for the reference to the Secretary of State.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "unreasonable," to insert the words "In the case of any constable who dies whilst employed on naval or military service the police authority shall have power to return to any of his dependants, as defined in Section 1 of the Police Reservists (Allowances) Act, 1914, the rateable deductions which have been made from his pay towards pension."

I cannot help thinking that in the pressure under which the Home Office is working at present this point must have been overlooked. I know the Home Secretary will agree with me that the police have been most patriotic. Probably no body has enlisted in the Army and the Navy more enthusiastically than the police; but it is found that with regard to young men with families and dependants who have enlisted, and in several cases lately have lost their lives, the local authorities have been unable to compensate the dependants under the Act of Parliament which regulates the payments to police. It has been found in Sheffield and Hull, where constables who have enlisted have lost their lives, that although the corporations are most anxious to compensate the dependants of these men who lost their lives in the service of their country, they were unable to do so. This is rather strange, because deductions are made from the police pay regularly towards pensions. If a constable resigns, he is able to get a part of what is known as the surrender value of the payments which have been made, and if he changes from one police force to another he is also able to get the surrender value or deduction in his payments. That is so arranged, I think, in Section 15 of the Police Act, 1890, which says that on the resignation or removal of a constable, by virtue of Section 21 he may be compensated. It seems to me that this is a most reasonable proposal, and a necessary one for the provision of some help for the dependants of policemen who have joined the Army or Navy and lost their lives. I do not know whether this Subsection is the proper place in which to insert my Amendment, but if the Home Secretary suggests any other place I should be only too glad to fall in with that suggestion. Whether the money is to be paid in a lump sum, or in any other way, is a matter for consideration. I do press upon the Home Secretary the necessity of making this addition to the Bill, and I cannot help thinking that he will agree with the proposal.

6.0 P.M.


It is quite true, as the hon. Member has said, that members of the police force generally throughout the country have shown the utmost readiness to volunteer to serve the country in the War; in fact, the difficulty has been to hold them back from serving, and police-constables have rather criticised the need of preventing them recruiting than raised any objection to the call of duty that has been made upon them. Of course if a police constable enlists with the permission of his authority and is unfortunately killed in the War and is not yet qualified to receive a police pension, his dependants will receive from Army funds the same pension that the dependants of any other soldier will receive who is killed in the War; but it is urged by the hon. Member that, in addition to that, some local authorities would desire to return to the dependants the contributions which the man had made during his police service in the nature of insurance premiums. That, of course, could not be done if death took place in the ordinary police service of the country, because the contributions are assessed more or less on an insurance basis, and with some regard to the risk that is being incurred. But it is true to say that this is a special and exceptional risk, which was not contemplated when the Police Act was drawn up, and perhaps for that reason it may require special and more generous consideration. If a policeman resigns from the force his contributions are repaid to him, but if he enlists for the War and is killed, the contributions are not repaid to his dependants. I think that the hon. Member has made out a strong case for permitting a local authority who so desire—the matter must rest on the option of the local authority who are the parties financially interested in the matter—to repay the money in cases such as those. I would therefore recommend the Committee to accept the hon. Member's Amendment with a further Amendment to make clear the purpose which he has really in view. As drafted, his Amendment would appear to make it permissible to the local authority, where a pension has been earned and where a pension is to be paid to the widow or dependant, in addition to that to give back the contributions under the insurance scheme under which the pension is payable. He has not got that in mind at all. He has in mind the case where no pension or allowance is payable. Therefore I would propose as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "service," to insert the words "in respect of whom no pension or gratuity is payable from the Police Fund."


I wish to support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. It is a simple measure of justice. The police constables have shown their patriotism by leaving snug employment to fight for their country, and their dependants ought to be cared for. The local authority should have power to give to the dependants of the deceased constable the contributions which he has made to the Pension Fund. I think the right hon. Gentleman has taken the right view, that this fund is really in the nature of deferred pay, and that therefore the dependants are not only entitled to the Grant from the State, but that in addition the local authority should have power to give them the amount of money which the constable has contributed to the Pension Fund.


I should have made it clear to the Committee that if a pension would be payable if the man had died in the course of duty in the Police Force we have already enacted by previous emergency legislation that the police pension) shall be payable if he had lost his life in the service of the country. This Amendment only deals with the case where the pension has not yet matured.


I shall be glad to accept that Amendment.

Amendment to proposed Amendment agreed to.

Proposed words, as amended, there inserted.


I beg to move, to add at the end of Clause 2 the following Sub-section: "For the purposes of Section 1 of the Police Emergency Provisions Act, 1915, every police constable who en listed in His Majesty's Forces prior to the passing of the above Act and who resigned from the Police Force for the purpose of so enlisting, shall be considered to have joined His Majesty's Forces with the consent of the chief officer of the force to which he belonged."

I have spoken to the Home Secretary about this Sub-section, which affects one of my Constituents. The addition which I propose is only justice to those men who have left the Police Force and joined the Service. Most of them have done this from patriotic motives, hardly realising that they left to enlist without permission. Their patriotism has induced them to give up in many cases soft jobs, and I would be very glad if the Home Secretary could do something to assist these men. It is not a very large matter, but it is one which would be specially appreciated in the Police Force. No words which I may say would, I suppose, induce the Home Secretary to alter his opinion, if he has decided to refuse to do anything in the matter; but the amount involved is very small. There are very few cases, but they are very deserving cases. The men acted entirely through patriotism, and they are entitled to be considered.


I cannot agree with the hon. Member that a policeman's ordinary sphere is to be regarded as what he terms a "soft job." There are many cases indeed in which a policeman's life is not a happy one, and although the risks of warfare are still greater, even in ordinary times they render their services to the public at very great risk to themselves. But I cannot accept the hon. Member's Amendment. The Committee I think will agree that it is really wrong in principle. In order to maintain the Police Force at all we had to lay down a rule that a man must not enlist without the permission of the police authority. If it were not so, the eagerness to enlist would have led to an undue depletion of the Police Force, and would have made it impossible to assure the safety of the inhabitants of this country. There are many others as well as policemen who have been refused permission to enlist on the ground that the services which they are rendering in their civilian occupations are indispensable. A policeman who nevertheless does enlist must expect to incur the penalties of a breach of this rule that has been laid down. There is a case to which some attention has been drawn, and I have no doubt that it is the case to which the hon. Member refers, of a man who applied twice for permission to enlist, and on both occasions was refused. Ultimately he resigned his service in the Police Force in order to enlist, but was told distinctly, with no possibility of doubt about it, that if he did enlist without the permission of a superior officer he must be regarded as having left the Police Force. In those circumstances it is impossible to regard all that as never having happened at all, and to treat the man who has enlisted in defiance of orders of his superior authority exactly in the same way as the man who has received permission. If such an Amendment as this were inserted, it would mean that I would be impossible to refuse permission to enlist, and it would make no difference whether permission were given or refused to great numbers of policemen and others who wished to join the Army.


I was not aware that this constable had been warned that if he did enlist he would have to consider himself as having retired from the service, and I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.