§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a Bill, which I venture to hope will not be contentious in principle, although, if it pass its Second Reading, and reach the Committee stage, there may be Amendments moved. It has been before all the local police authorities, through the County Councils' Associations and the Municipal Associations, and they have approved of it not only in principle, but also in detail. May I remind the House of the principles upon which the Desborough Committee dealt with this matter. We have in this country a very large, number of police forces under the control of local police authorities, and, before the sitting of this Committee, their circumstances in general were very different, one from the other. Each local authority had its own idea of pay and pension, and within certain statutory limits of maxima and minima they could do what they liked. That was found in some cases to work very harshly. There were two things which the Desborough Committee had to take in hand. First of all, they had to preserve for the local police authorities their control of their own forces; and in the second place, while preserving the control, they had to endeavour to introduce into the whole of the forces more standardisation and more equality of treatment for various men in the service. Of course, the principle of some central control was granted at once when the system of inspection was instituted and when it was arranged that the Treasury should pay half the expenses. They are in receipt of public money, and therefore there must be some measure of public control. They are also subject to inspection in order to secure their efficiency. The Desborough Committee kept in view the desirability that the force should, as far as possible, be standardised. That has been done with regard to the pay, which is now standardised right throughout the country. The Desborough Committee, after going into the matter very 42 carefully, came to the conclusion that there was no such variation of work, duties, and responsibilities as to justify variation in pay, and therefore it has been standardised.
With regard to pensions, the position is this: You have certain variations in England. Under the Act of 1890 local authorities are able, within certain maxima and minima, to fix their own pension arrangement, and they vary very considerably in different forces. In Scotland, on the contrary, they have a more fixed scale, but it is not the same as either the maxima or minima of the English and Welsh scale. The Desborough Committee came to the conclusion that, if possible, they ought to recommend a standardised scale as between England, Wales, and Scotland, and that is what the Bill proposes to do. In some respects the English scale will not be so beneficial to the individual force as formerly, but in, other respects it will be more beneficial. It is a matter of give and take in order to get standardisation. The same applies to Scotland. To-day it takes 34 years' service for a Scottish policeman to acquire his maximum pension of two-thirds pay. The Bill proposes that he may obtain his maximum pension at the end of 30 years instead of 34 years, and to that extent he benefits. In England, on the contrary, a man gets his pension of two-thirds pay at the end of 26 years, and that is changed to 30 year's. That, of course, is not so beneficial to him, but there are other points in respect of which he does benefit. Take the case of a pension which a man earns because he is medically unfit and has to leave the force. To-day a man can only leave the force on a medical certificate and be entitled to a pension after he has served 15 years. The Bill proposes that he should be able to retire on a medical certificate and be entitled to a pension after ten years. Equally the Bill proposes certain advantages for widows and for children and orphans of invalided or dead policemen. There are, on the one hand, adjustments which are not beneficial, and there are, on the other hand, adjustments which are beneficial, but the Bill will give greater equality and more standardisation. Where you have no standardisation, and adjoining forces have different rates, you always get discontent in the force which is not so well treated as the other, but if you get 43 standardisation it leads to greater contentment and is much more convenient to work.
There is also another question which has been found of some considerable difficulty which is standardised by this Bill, and that is the question of special pensions, which are pensions granted in respect of injuries received by a man in the execution of his duties, and there are four categories. There are, first of all, total disablement and partial disablement, and the total disablement is divided into two, namely, total disablement arising from accidental injuries received in the course of duty, and total disablement arising from non-accidental injuries received in the course of duty; partial disablement is divided in the same way. A better scale has been introduced into the schedule in this Bill for the total disablement, and with regard to the partial disablement, instead of leaving it to the discretion practically of the local authority, the Bill provides that when it is ascertained by the medical advisers what the proportion of partial disablement is to total disablement—a half, three-quarters, and so on—the pension for partial disablement will be based automatically on the total disablement scale, so that a man now, if he is only partially disabled, will, if the Bill passes, be fully entitled to a pension, and will know exactly the amount he is entitled to receive.
I need not take up the time of the House with greater detail. The Bill appears to be of considerable length, but it is really not very long. You cannot have a pension scheme without some intricacies, but the Bill itself is based on the simple principles that you get standardisation, equality of treatment, and a really equitable and generous system of pensions, not only for the policemen themselves but for their widows and their orphans. I have no doubt hon. Members will appreciate that I am only dealing with the principles of the Bill today. The main principle of the Bill, I have said, has been before the central representatives of the local police authorities, and they have approved it, and I ask the House, having regard to the fact that it is based on the recommendations of a Committee of great ability and industry, recommendations which have been largely followed already in other respects, to give it a Second Reading.
§ Sir J. REMNANT
We are all grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the introduction of this Bill and for the statement which he has just made. The few remarks which I wish to make will not be made in the spirit of hoping to embarrass the Government, but, on the contrary, of trying to help them by making suggestions which I hope they will agree to accept in the same spirit as that in which they are made. The Home Secretary has alluded to the Desborough Committee, and he made one remark in connection with it which, so far as I heard it, was to the effect that the Committee were in favour of local forces being controlled locally. I do not quite know what the right hon. Gentleman means by that, but I do know that in the Committee it was felt that there were far too large a number of very minute forces in this country, in regard to which a considerable economy might be effected. There were as few as nine members in one force, which boasted of a chief constable of its own, and several forces of eleven and twelve men boasted also of chief constables, and in the same counties you often find two or three forces each rejoicing in the advantage of a chief constable to itself, with the additional staff. Although the Committee did not go so far as to wish the counties to control all the police forces in their respective areas, they were very much in favour of considerably reducing the number of police authorities, as in their view likely to lead to economy in administration and to greater efficiency of the forces. The Bill undoubtedly confers great advantages on the members of the police forces, and I believe that by a very small compromise, if I may use that term in connection with the Home Office, or arrangement between the Home Office and the authorities great advantages might be given which will lead to a greater feeling of contentment in the forces.
May I refer to one of the points in the Bill which certainly demands some explanation from the Government, and that is in Clause 3, by which widows of pre-1st September, 1918, pensioners are left out of consideration altogether. The hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. Hall), when the subject was previously before the Committee upstairs, called attention to this, and I have no doubt he will have more to say on it than I am able to say at 45 the present moment, but it will certainly be raised again in Committee, and I think that the House should have some explanation from the right hon. Gentleman as to why these widows are excluded from any consideration under the Bill. Their number is not considerable; on the contrary, it is small. The widows of pre-War pensioners receive no pensions, and these pensioners received such small pensions that the Government of necessity had to increase them in order to meet in some way the increased cost of living, so that these poor widows are in a peculiarly sad condition, and I know there are a great number of cases which are literally distressing to a degree. In connection with this there is another point for consideration. When the War broke out a great number of police pensioners rejoined the Forces, and a good many of them broke down just previous to the 1st September, 1918. We all know that the unfortunate strike took place at the end of August, 1918. We know that the conditions which were made at that time in order to settle the dispute provided for the pensions of police pensioners' widows, and I believe the true reason for excluding these pre-1st September, 1918, widows is that in the stress of that particular time, when you were settling with the strikers, you forgot the widows of the men who had retired previous to that date. I believe if the matter is pressed and pushed properly the Government will see the reasonableness of meeting the case. At all events, it cannot be right that preference should be shown to men who struck, over those who held out to the end, and the only reasons for whose retirement from the Force were ill-health and a breakdown in their physical system brought on by the stress of the War. The right hon. Gentleman in the Memorandum to the Bill says that it amends the law so as to give effect in all essentials to the recommendations of the Committee on Police Service presided over by Lord Desborough. If the right hon. Gentleman really thinks that this is the case, he surely cannot have seen or read paragraph 184 of the Report (Part II), page 21:We recognise that this question is part of a much wider one which has been ruled as beyond our Terms of Reference, and we must content ourselves with stating our very 46 strong opinion that the revision of the pensions of constables who have rendered the community good service in the past should be taken in hand without delay as a measure of equity and justice, and that the widows of constables who retired before 1st September, 1918, should also be considered in this-connection.If the right hon. Gentleman really means what he has just said, and I am quite sure we all believe he genuinely does mean it, all I can say is that if he is going to carry out the essentials of the Desborough Report he will see that proper provision is made for these poor widows of pensioners pre-1st September, 1918. The answer may be that the Government is only able to allot for this purpose a certain sum of money. If the rationing of Departments is to start, I shall not be sorry if it is applied as a general rule, but if in this case the Government cannot afford more than a certain sum of money, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not consider the matter in conjunction with the police council and let them settle how it should be divided to the best purpose in dealing with the pensions of these old people. Another point to which I should like to call attention relates to rateable deduction from the pay of the constables. It is a very difficult and a very complicated question which I approach with some diffidence. The right hon. Gentleman has said that we are all anxious so far as possible to standardise the conditions of the different forces of police throughout the country. That is perfectly true, but we should consider in dealing with the rateable deductions the present conditions of the forces. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, some of the police—I will go further and say the great majority—are serving under a 26 years' service contract. I should think in the Metropolitan Police three-quarters, if not more, of the men, are serving under a 26 years' contract. Under this Bill the men of the future will have to contract themselves to serve 30 years before getting maximum pensions. You now offer under this Bill certain advantages to those who are under the 26 years' contract if they will exchange that for a 30 years' contract. I give my opinion, for what it is worth, that very few of the men will exchange from 26 to 30 years' service despite certain advantages which they get under the Bill.
I have learned from inquiries I have made that it is the ordinary decision 47 amongst the men that they are quite prepared to stick to what they have already got under the 26 years' service and will not exchange to the 30. Twenty-six years' service is admitted by those who have had great experience of the police to be the length of service that the average policeman can efficiently perform his duties in, and at the end of 26 years he is not, on the average, equal to an extension of his period of service. Therefore, what you will have in every police force in this country for many years to come will be two grades of men working side by side, and, as the right hon. Gentleman must be aware, if you do not have an equal standard of working you will have discontent among the men, and if you have that discontent you will not have as efficient a body of men as we would all like to see. If you are going to continue two grades of police constables, it is bound to lead to irritation and unrest unless we find means to stop it. The men's Federation—I expect the matter has been put before the right hon. Gentleman—say: "We admit the disadvantages of having two grades of services and will the Government allow the men who signed on for 30 years to come into the 26 years' grade, if they themselves will agree to an additional rateable deduction from their wages which will compensate the Government for any loss in respect of the greater cost incurred by giving up the extra four years, and so put all the men throughout the length and breadth of the country on one grade?" I believe the thirty year men would be prepared to allow an addition to the 2½ per cent, rateable deduction, making it 3 per cent., if the Government would allow them all to be put on exactly the same conditions. I put it to the Government, will they consider this and, if they consider it, will they do so with the police councils and the men themselves? I am satisfied that the country is not going to Suffer a loss or any considerable loss by the change.
Another point I must refer to is the system of new pensions to the widows of serving men. Under the Bill they range from £30 to £50. Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that the £30 is sufficient to provide for the widow who might be left with no other means of subsistence? The men again say in this case, We want to make better provisions for our widows. We 48 want the £30 raised to £45, and we are prepared from our weekly wages to agree to a quarter per cent, additional rateable deduction, which is, according to the estimate of those capable of making one, sufficient to practically cover the increased cost of the increased pensions. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider these points. Will he see whether they are likely to throw on the Exchequer of the country an increased burden over and above what the men themselves are prepared to find towards the cost? If after full consideration he is satisfied that it is a reasonable request, will he take steps in that event before the Bill is finally passed towards making provision for dealing with the matters I have raised? There is only one other point which I wish to mention on the Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman has said the time for detailed Amendments will be in Committee, but I do hope this time he will not oppose the word "shall" being substituted for "may." We brought it forward several times in Committee on the Pensions Increase Act, and we were assured by the Solicitor-General and by the present Secretary of State for War, who was then in charge of the Bill, and, I think, by my right hon. Friend himself, that it really means the same, always had meant the same, and could never mean anything else, and we were asked not to press for the substitution. When the Home Office called upon the counties to carry out the Act we found that one or two counties absolutely refused to touch it, some other counties dwindled it down to a mere fraction of what they were authorised to do, and others delayed it so long that it amounted to a refusal, while some to-day have postponed consideration of it, and all on the ground that after all it was a permissive Act and there was no compulsion upon them. Those poor fellows have had to suffer much in these times because the Government assured us in Committee that "may" meant "shall," and "shall" meant "may," and refused to allow any alteration to be made in the Bill. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will now see that all these "mays" are made "shalls" so that there can be no further difficulty in connection with the carrying out of the Bill and everybody can know exactly what the House of Commons means. My whole anxiety is to help the Government to improve the Bill and not 49 to embarrass them, in their endeavour to help this great force, which is the pride of this country, and as a matter of fact of the whole world, and to maintain its high state of efficiency. In order to maintain that, we must see that there is no discontent, but contentment, and that the men may feel they can safely trust the administration of the force in the hands of the State.
§ Mr. N. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not rise for the purpose of opposing the Second Reading of this Bill, which, indeed, I welcome, as being based on the recommendations of the Committee on the Police Service, and as performing, I think, a very useful and much needed service in consolidating the existing law upon the subject of police pensions. With reference to what has just been said by my hon. and gallant Friend opposite, I also hope that where the word "may" in the Bill is intended to have the effect of "shall," the word "shall" will be substituted for it. But I would also point out that there are a number of instances throughout the Bill where the word "may" is intended to mean "may," and is even accompanied by the words "at their discretion,' and of course, in such cases, it would not be proper to put in the word " shall."
There are one or two points of detail in the Bill which are not altogether satisfactory to the constables, and I shall propose to raise some of those points in Committee. Perhaps I may be allowed to indicate to the House the general lines upon which these objections are taken. First of all, I would like to say that, when you are desirous of altering the conditions in any service, it is, of course, perfectly legitimate to alter those conditions as regards all men who may come into that service after the alterations, but I think you must be very careful that, in carrying out your alterations, you do not prejudice men who have entered a service before those alterations were contemplated, and who might, therefore, have a very justifiable grievance against the Government if their conditions were in any way made worse by alterations which the Government might think it in the general interest of the force to make. If you take the question of compulsory retirement, that principle was recognised in the Superannuation Act of 1906, and in Section 6 of the Act, which dealt with the compulsory retirement of constables 50 above the rank of inspector, there was a proviso put in which made the new Act not applicable to any constables holding rank above that of inspector before the passing of that Act. The Act of 1906 is repealed by the present Bill, and the provisions about compulsory retirement are repeated in the first Clause of the Bill, but that proviso, which I have mentioned, is not in the Bill, and I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether he will not, in Committee, consent to the reintroduction of those words safeguarding the position of constables above the rank of inspector, as they were safeguarded in the old Act of 1906.
Then, again, the first Section of the Act of 1906 is, of course, repealed with the remainder of the Act. That provided that, where a constable was entitled to retire on a pension, but chose to go on serving in the Force, he might have the same pension when he did retire as he would have been entitled to if he had retired as soon as his time was up, and nothing that he did, except committing a felony, would forfeit the pension which he had really earned by serving the full time. That Section has gone, and there is nothing in the present Bill which gives the same privileges to constables who may re-enlist in the Force after they have been entitled to retire on a pension. I submit, again, in that case, you are prejudicing the position of existing members in the Force, unless Section 1 of the Act of 1906 is repeated, or some similar provision is made.
The next point to which I want to draw my right hon. Friend's attention is that of dependants of members of the police force. In Clause 19, Sub-section (3), there is a reference to the case of a member of a police force who has neither wife nor children, but has people who are dependent upon him, and their rights are to some extent recognised. I want to suggest to my right hon. Friend, not that he should give dependants statutory right to allowances, but that he should give some discretion to the police authorities to recognise what might be extremely hard cases, such as that of a constable, a single man, supporting an aged mother or a sister, or some other relative who is dependent upon him, and should recognise the moral right of those people to some sort of gratuity or allowance, and he should give permission to police authorities, where they think it 51 right, to extend those gratuities and allowances. Then, with regard to widows, in the First Schedule of the Bill we find that the amount of gratuity which is granted to the widow of a police officer is at the discretion of the police authority. It is true there is a maximum—it is not to exceed one-twelfth of her husband's annual pay for each completed year of approved service—but it is to be of such amount as the police authority shall determine. I cannot quite understand why there should be this discretion. In the case of a member of the police force the gratuity must be one-twelfth of his annual pay for every year of service. Why should not the widow have her gratuity stated in so many words, and why should that discretion be made?
The right hon. Gentleman, in moving the Second Beading of this Bill, pointed out how very desirable it was to have standardisation throughout the country. He said that if you had a better practice in some authorities than in others, there was bound to be discontent in those places where the authorities were not so generous. This is exactly a case in point because, in the more progressive localities, it is customary to give the full amount of the possible gratuity to a widow, but in other cases it is not so, and I therefore venture to suggest to my right hon. Friend that he might well take away that discretionary power, and put the widows of these men in exactly the same position as the men themselves. Then, with regard to the provision in Sub-section (3) of Clause 3, which allows a police authority to give a widow who is entitled to a pension a gratuity instead of a pension, with her consent, at their discretion. Constables are not well satisfied with that Sub-section. What they want is that when a widow is entitled to a pension, she shall have a right to demand a gratuity in lieu of the pension. There must be many cases when this gratuity would be very much more valuable to a widow than the pension. She may want a little capital to set up a business, or something of that kind, and a lump sum would be very much more valuable to her than a pension, even although the pension were a comparable amount to the gratuity to which she would be entitled. But there are cases, of course, where, if the gratuity were to be the same as it is in the case of a member of the police force, it would 52 amount to a very much larger sum than the pension would be worth, because if hon. Members will look at the amounts which are stated in the Schedule they will see they are comparatively of a modest extent, and, in the case of an officer high in rank, in receipt of a considerable salary, the gratuity on the scale of one-twelfth for each year of service would amount, in some cases, to a very considerable sum. If my right hon. Friend would be good enough to give his attention to those four points which I have mentioned, and to accept, or to introduce, Amendments in Committee dealing with them, then I think the Bill may be infinitely more acceptable to constables and the police force generally.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I quite agree that this Bill is a great improvement on the Bill which was introduced at the end of last Session dealing with this subject, and it has given a considerable amount of satisfaction. Again, there are one or two points to which I should like to refer on Second Reading. In several cases in the Bill the word "may" is inserted where the word "shall" ought to be introduced, because there is no doubt, if you are to have smooth working of a scheme of this kind, it is essential that all the police authorities in the country should be in line. The chief cause of dissatisfaction in the police force among the widows and dependants is undoubtedly that in some counties they get one thing, and in other counties another. Therefore, it should not be within the power of any one police authority, as it were, to contract-out, and not to give what is given by the majority. The first case to which I refer is in Sub-section (3) of Clause 3:Where a widow is entitled to a pension under this Act, the police authority may, at their discretion and with her consent, grant her a gratuity in lieu thereof.That, of course, leaves the thing at the discretion of the local police authority, and it does seem to me that it is most desirable that it should not be left with that discretion, but that if a gratuity is to be granted at all, and if the widow requires it, it should be compulsory on the police authority to give it. The same thing occurs in various other Clauses of the Bill.
I would like to refer to the case of children under 16 years of age. It is far better that the assistance should be an allowance rather than an ad hoc gratuity. 53 To my mind, an allowance is a much more satisfactory way of making provision for children. Under Sub-section (2) of Clause 4 "the police authority may, if they think fit"—again it should be "shall" — "grant gratuities to his children under 16 years of age or any of them." There, I suggest, it would be much more desirable that the police authority should be required to make allowances for the children, and not give gratuities in that case. Then there is another difficulty in the Bill with regard to the women police. The women police are not sworn as constables, and I think it is right that in a Bill of this kind the women police should be included, whether sworn as constables or not. They have to perform the duties, and they are in every way now a part of the police, although they are not always sworn as constables. Therefore, I hope the Home Secretary in Committee will reconsider the position of the women police, and bring them fully within the scope of the Bill. There is another rather curious point. Clause 27, Sub-section (2) says:No allowance or gratuity shall be payable in respect of any child of a deceased police woman during the lifetime of the father, except where the police authority is satisfied that he cannot support or neglects to support the child.These words do seem to me to be very extraordinary words. They seem to set a premium on encouraging the father of the child to neglect his children. I do, therefore, hope that the Home Secretary in Committee will delete these words "neglects to support the child." If these were deleted I am quite sure it would be a strong improvement to the measure. There is no doubt, as I say, that the important thing in legislation of this kind is to prevent anomalies—things being done in one county and not in another, and I hope the Home Secretary, when the Bill is in Committee, will keep a very careful eye on that essential point and will take every opportunity, where Amendment is necessary, to give effect to the principle involved. I hope the House will unanimously give this Bill a Second Reading, because I know, ever since the Desborough Report, there has been anxiety to know what is to be done in the final settlement of this matter. This Bill is certainly on the right lines.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. HALL
I should like to say at once that I was very pleased 54 to hear the Home Secretary announce that in the Committee stage recommendations of amendment would be listened to relating to this Bill. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Remnant) referred particularly to the question of pensions being granted to the widows of those who had left the service on or before 31st August, 1918. May I draw the attention of the-Home Secretary to the case of a man, say, who has served as a constable for 27 or 28 years and retired on 31st August, 1918, through no fault of his own. He has, had exemplary conduct and has carried out his duties to the entire satisfaction af the police authorities. Under the Act of Parliament we know what treatment the widow receives. Contrast that with what happens in the case of a man who has done six or seven years and retires after 1st September, 1918—that is to say, the next day. In November, 1918, I drew attention to this matter. The Attorney-General, who replied, seemed to give the matter some sympathetic consideration. His reply was to the effect that if they went into an alteration of the pensions of these people and made them retrospective it would, in many cases, be necessary to consider the demand of other people. I do not think that is a position that ought to be taken at all. If it is right, and if it has been acknowledged by the Government that they should give pensions to the widows of these men who have served loyally for very many years, it is not going to cost very much, and it is not for the Government to turn round and say—because it is going to cost something extra— "We admit"—I will not use the word "right," but "we admit it is 'advisable' that pensions should be granted to the widows, but because their husbands happened to leave the force, unfortunately, on the day previous to the Act coming into operation, and the alteration of the law, we are debarred from giving them any pensions." I asked the Government whether they could give me any information as to the number of widows that would probably come under that alteration. I was informed they could not give me the number, but I do not think any Member of this House, or the Government, would consider that it can be a very large number that will come under it, and, naturally, it is reducing year by year. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill will give this matter his careful consideration, and subsequently 55 give favourable consideration to Amendments that may be moved in Committee.
With regard to Clause 3, Sub-section (3), I am not at all sure that I am in favour of the suggestion made by the two hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me. I can quite see that in certain cases it might be advisable for the police authorities to have the right to say whether they would give a pension or a gratuity. No doubt the Home Secretary will very carefully consider any suggestion of amendment. I can conceive some cases in which the gratuity might before long be squandered—not in the majority of cases—and I do think, before the Government make the suggested alteration, it should be carefully considered as to whether or not it is advisable to leave the matter as it has been placed in this Sub-section. After all, it is the desire of the country to provide for these widows in a proper way in order that they may be able to have some permanent amount coming in for their own benefit. They ought not to be given the opportunity of squandering money and then unfortunately arriving at a dire and necessitous condition.
There is another body of men for whom I should like to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, that is the officers themselves who retired previous to the alteration of these pensions. Take the case of a police officer who served for 27 years and 11 months—I am quoting a special case brought to my notice—and retired on a pension of 19s. 6d. per week. That amount in pre-War days provided very little; but it provided a tremendous amount more than 19s. 6d. does at the present time. The constable retiring under the new condition of things, after serving the full term will get £3 5s. per week. These pensioners who retired, as I say, are not going to get anything extra, and no consideration is given to the fact that many of these, retired police-officers, rejoined the Service and carried out police duties during the very hard and trying times of the War. I certainly think that the time that these ex-officers of police served during the War should be taken into consideration. If my right hon. Friend says, "I cannot put them on the same basis as the others," well, I appreciate that point; but I do think that the time served on rejoining and after retirement should have some weight with 56 the authorities in the direction of a somewhat increased pension. Then take a police sergeant who has spent 32 or 33 years in the Force and retired before 1st September, 1918. He retired on a pension of 28s. per week. These pensions were calculated on the then purchasing value of the sovereign. I am not asking my right hon. Friend that he should bring the whole of these cases up to the present standard. I can quite understand his difficulty here; but I do think he should add the additional time of those who were called up and served during the War to the pensionable years, as I have suggested in the case of the ordinary officer, and so make the calculation more in view of the purchasing value of the sovereign to-day. These men served 32 or 33 years, and are getting old men, and they are not going to be on the pension list for very many years. If at a slight increase you can make the lives of these ex-officers who served steadfastly and well better and more comfortable, I hope it may be done.
I recognise the generous manner in which the Government has met the general questions in regard to the members of the present Force, but, as was referred to by my right hon. Friend, I think that you want to keep some of these constables in the service a longer period. They may finish, say, after the 26 years at about 46 or 47. Many of these men have thorough good experience, know the ropes well, and their knowledge and experience should be of assistance to the State. Owing, however, to the regulations, the slightest mishap that may occur frightens these men; they have the thought of losing their pension. Some more or less trivial matter may put the pension they have worked hard for years to obtain in jeopardy. Something should be done. It is not, I am sure, the desire of anyone, or the Home Secretary, that these people should be harshly dealt with, and I hope it will be possible to insert words that will limit the irregularities that will make these men's pensions forfeit. I finish by repeating I am delighted to hear that in the Committee stage my right hon. Friend will give due consideration to Amendments; that, therefore, the Bill is not going to be put forward with a "You may take it or leave it." With slight alterations and Amendments, I venture to think that the police of this country should be satisfied 57 with the Bill and with the generous manner in which the Government has tried to deal with this subject.
§ Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY
I desire to add a few words in welcoming this Bill. No doubt the police forces, on whom human society has to depend, have had many anomalies to complain of in regard to their pensions in the past. Unintentional injustice has been done, to some members of course, in this matter, but I think the Home Secretary is fully aware of these facts. I am sure, therefore, that he will welcome, not destructive criticism, but such criticism as is likely to be put forward by hon. Members who have spoken, and intend it for the purpose of helping the Government to make this Bill a complete issue out of all the difficulties under which the police labour at the present time in regard to their pensions. There is one point which I think my right hon. Friend might take very carefully into consideration. So far as I have been able to study the Bill I do not think there is any provision to meet the case of a constable after retirement on a pension who has come back to the force and given three or four years' good service in times of emergency, by which that service should count for his pension. There is undoubtedly a gross injustice in recalling a constable to active service, and then refusing to add those years to his qualification for a pension. I believe in the case of civil servants there were many instances of pensionable officers being brought back to take the place of men at the front, and in their case an addition was made to the active service time as qualifying for a pension. In the case of the police officer the case is even stronger for doing something of this kind, and I hope that in Committee, if it is not already dealt with in the Bill, my right hon. Friend will be inclined to listen to arguments which I am sure will be addressed to the Committee.
My hon. and gallant Friend (Sir F. Hall) has referred to the case of constables who have retired before a certain date, and he has pointed out the great contrast existing between the pensions paid to them. These men would have received much better pensions if they had remained, as they might have done, a little longer in active service. 58 There are cases where men have retired only a few days before the appointed day in ignorance, and consequently they have got less than half of what other constables have received who retired only a few days later. I hope that point will be brought out before the Committee and I trust my right hon. Friend, in the meantime, will be good enough to inform himself of the facts and be prepared to deal with it.
There is the question of suspension of pension while serving in another force, as set forth in Clause 17 of the Bill. That is to say, if a constable has earned a pension in one police force and then he takes active service in another his pension may be suspended. There is the celebrated case of the chief constable in a large provincial city in Lancashire who qualified for a full pension for several hundreds of pounds, and, having received it, he became chief constable of another and even more important district. I do not want to criticise that case, and all I wish to say is that whatever principle is right for the chief constable is equally right for the man in the rank and file. Therefore, when you have cases of that kind amounting to many hundreds of pounds a year, you certainly ought to mete out the same measure for justice to the ordinary constable as you do to the chief constable. I hope it will be found on closer examination of the Bill that it does not permit any difference of treatment of this character.
In these matters we are accustomed to making provision for widows without what is called the power of anticipation. I think it would be a great pity if widows of police constables were able to demand, as a matter of right, from any watch committee that their pension should be commuted because that exposes the widows to a danger they should be saved from. I think power should be given to make that commutation, but I think it would be a mistake to lay down that the authorities should be compelled to do it. With regard to the question of an appeal at the present moment, a police constable has no right of appeal whatever from the chief constable in the county or district in which he is serving, and surely that is not justice. I do not care how small a suit at law may be, there is always a right of appeal in the majority of instances. Even in a criminal case you have recently established a Court of 59 Criminal Appeal. In the case of a police constable suffering under what he considers an unfair decision of the chief constable there is no right of appeal, and I would ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether he cannot make such an Amendment in this Bill as will enable a constable to appeal to the Standing Joint Committee of the county or the Watch Committee of the borough in such cases. I know the argument against my suggestion is that it might interfere with discipline.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Is the hon. Baronet now referring to appeals in regard to questions of pensions? If he limits his remarks to that, he is in order; but the question of appeals in regard to matters of discipline will not be in order.
§ Sir F. FLANNERY
I intended to say that I was dealing with appeals in regard to pensions which are decided by the chief constable. I wish to argue that there should be an Amendment to enable such appeals to be possible, and I think that a provision of that kind would be very popular, and is very much desired by the police force generally. I know the argument against my suggestion is that if a chief constable is absolute in his decisions it has a tendency to improve discipline, but I do not believe that is the case; on the contrary, it is when there is a remedy against a sense of injustice that discipline is improved. These points, I know, are all matters of detail, but they are important, and I feel sure that they will receive the consideration of my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
With regard to what has been said on the subject of appeal, I wish to point out that we have in Scotland a court from which there is no appeal, which deals with small sums of money, and on those matters the decision of the judge is supreme. There is one point made by the hon. Baronet who has just sat down which I think should be insisted upon, and that is in relation to the unfortunate members of the force who retire before the stated dates. It is a fact that a constable who has served all the years of pensionable life is now drawing less than the unemployed benefit, and an anomaly so grave should not be allowed to exist. I have had many instances of hardship of this kind brought to my notice of men with blameless records who 60 are not able to buy the barest necessities of life with the pension they are receiving after serving a long and an honourable career. I think the Home Secretary's attention should be directed to those cases and some Amendment in the Bill should be made to meet them.
§ Mr. DENNIS HERBERT
I trust that when the Bill goes into Committee the Government will look with sympathy upon the amendments which will be proposed in order to make the measure more satisfactory from the point of view of members of the force who have been waiting for this measure for such a long time. There is no doubt that with very little, if any, extra expense this Bill could be made much more satisfactory. With regard to the suggestion that the pensioners under the new scale should contribute to assist those who have retired in the past on small pensions, it is well known to many of us that in the police force as well as in many other ranks, pensioners whose pensions are insufficient to live upon are being assisted by their more fortunate fellow workers. If these old pensioners cannot be substantially helped at the expense of the State, then they should receive some assistance from their more fortunate brethren, and certainly the force as a whole would welcome some improvement in the lot of the earlier pensioners even at the expense of those who are more fortunate under this Bill.
The hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall) was, I think, under some misapprehension in regard to his point about the widow being able to demand a gratuity instead of a pension. That is one of the things upon which I believe the members of the force are more determined than they are on almost any other point of the Bill. The reason is this, that in the past there has been power to grant a gratuity to the widow, and that power has been exercised by joint- committees of the counties in almost every case. Indeed it has been exercised so regularly that it has come to be looked upon by the police as something in the nature of a right. That gratuity in almost all cases is of much greater value than the value of the pension, and therefore, if the police authority is going to give the pension and refuse the gratuity the widow will be worse off than she would have been without this Bill passing into law. The objec- 61 tion of my hon. Friend (Sir F. Hall), that the widow might squander or lose it, does not, I think, really hold water. I believe I am right in saying there is provision in the Bill under which, if a gratuity is given in that way, the police authorities can protect it in the same way as compensation awarded under the Workmen's Compensation Act is protected, and the widow can thus be prevented being left in a state of impecuniosity.
§ Mr. HERBERT
I have not the Bill in my hand. Even if I am wrong in that I would respectfully submit to my hon. and gallant Friend that the point I have mentioned with regard to the value of the gratuity is so important that it would be better to concede the request of the constables that the widow should have a right to this gratuity and if there is no provision for protection in the Bill itself to put it in in Committee. The point is also important in this way. I do not wish to differentiate between county joint committees and borough watch committees, but I would point out that some bodies may have more pressure brought to bear upon them to be, I will not say more niggardly, but more economical, in dealing with the funds at their disposal; and it would be a very unfortunate anomaly for the police in one district to know that in all cases a discretion of this sort, which is of very considerable pecuniary value, will be exercised in favour of their widows, while the police in neighbouring districts may know practically for certain that it will not be exercised in the case of their widows.
I wish finally to call attention to the cases of the men who were retired on pensions before the War, and who reengaged during the War. There are, I believe, a very considerable number of these cases, and many of the retired constables, on re-engagement rose to considerably higher rank. It does seem to me only fair and reasonable that they should receive some consideration in their pension for their service in a rank superior to that of constable during the War. I am sure the Government or no one would wish to be in a position of making a profit out of the police who re-engaged during the War, but the fact that they did re-engage 62 for a period of four or five years during the War probably had the effect of shortening the lives of many of them. The War caused a great strain on everyone, and not least on the police, and especially those who served in the superior ranks during the War. They are therefore deserving of special consideration at the hands of this House, and should come second only to those whose demands are admitted to be overwhelming, namely, the men who fought for us on land and sea. I hope the Government will do its best to make the Bill, as I believe it can be made, at practically little, if any, extra expense, one which will render the force contented. Much as they welcome it at the present moment, they realise there are in it a number of points on which they feel very strongly indeed, and if they can be met on these points it will do a great deal to create that feeling of contentment and good will which is so particularly necessary in a great force like this.
§ Captain O'GRADY
Although most of the points which have been raised in this Debate have really been Committee points, I hope the Home Secretary will give them favourable consideration. I was a member of the Desborough Committee which supported my hon. and gallant Friend opposite in connection with the case of the men who retired before 1914. That Committee was approached on many occasions by these men, who look on this as a very vital question and one much more important than other points which have been raised. Large numbers of the police re-engaged for service during the War and took the place of the men who went out to fight. Many of these men, although they looked well physically, were really not capable of undertaking the work, yet they did very splendid service during the period of war, and they naturally expected, when their colleagues came back, that some regard would be paid, in the matter of their pension, to the work which they had done. I hope the Government will endeavour to meet the cases of these men, and give them a higher pension than they now receive. I remember speaking to a constable on duty in this House who reengaged during the War, and who seemed to think it a very great hardship that men who had completed their service before 1914 should only get a pension of 27s. a week, while those who retired 63 soon after the Desborough Committee Report became operative got a pension of something over 60s. a week. I have had a good many communications on this subject, but I will read one which I think puts the point very clearly. A constable writes to me:Is it fair that a constable who retired before 1914, after 34 years' service, should only receive a pension of 30s. 8d. per week, including the increase under the recent Act, and that his widow should be left entirely unprovided for, while a constable who retired after that date, with only 30 years, receives 63s. 4d. per week and his widow a pension of £30 per year for life?There you have the two pensions contrasted, and I do not see how the Government can stand in the way of accepting the appeal made to it. These are very glaring cases, but I am afraid they are also very common, and something should be done to meet the injustice even under the terms of this Bill. Moreover, as my hon. and gallant Friend said, the Committee felt the injustice of the situation when we were discussing the position of the force, and we inserted outside the terms of our reference an appeal to the Government and to the police authorities generally to take the cases of these men into consideration. That appeal should be responded to by the Government. I think my right hon. Friend will see that he will not get standardisation under the present Bill. There will still be inequalities and anomalies remaining so long as you have a Bill of a permissive character. You cannot always construe the word "may" into "shall." There are some authorities in the country which have taken the course of absolutely refusing to put into operation the recommendations of the last Bill, even though directly invited to do so by the Home Secretary, and, therefore, it is absolutely necessary, in view of the right hon. Gentleman's own desire for standardisation, that the permissive words in the Bill should be substituted by imperative words. I hope I shall be able to support my hon. Friend in the few Amendments he proposes to bring forward on the Committee stage with regard to the retrospective working of the Bill so as to make the measure a practical one, not only in the interests of sections of the police, but in the interests of the force throughout the country.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I also desire to thank the Home Secretary for having 64 brought in this Bill and I doubt not that with a few necessary Amendments it will be made a very useful measure. My hon. Friend who spoke last referred to the extraordinary differences between the pensions of men who retired before and after 1914, and to the serious anomalies which exist, anomalies which I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to correct in this Bill, as there does not seem to be any justification for them. While I thank my right hon. Friend for this Bill, I should like to be allowed to enter a protest of complaint that it contains no provision whatever for dealing with the grievances of existing Irish police pensioners. I do not propose to go into that matter in any detail; it might not be in order to do so, but inasmuch as the Bill does contain a Clause, I think it is the 32nd, which says it shall not apply to Ireland except so far as is expressly stated, that indicates at any rate that it would be in order to introduce into the Bill some provision with regard to Ireland. With regard to my protest, let me say that there are grievances of the Irish police pensioners which are of the most grave and serious nature, and practically many of them have arisen from the fact that the men were so badly treated under the Increase of Pensions Act, 1920. That is universally admitted, even by the Chief Secretary in this House recently, and also to a deputation of Irish police pensioners which waited on him in July last. The reason why these police pensioners suffered so much under the Act of 1920 is that their case is entirely different from that of the English police pensioners, and the Chief Secretary stated that they had satisfied him that they deserved special treatment. The existing pensions are exceedingly small, about £50 or £60 a year, a sum upon which it is hardly possible for a man to live, let alone his wife and family. Many of these men are, consequently, in a position of the greatest want, and that position is made more difficult because it is notorious that in Ireland, and in the South especially, Irish police pensioners find it exceedingly hard to get work of any sort, for the simple reason that they have done their duty as policemen. We, who know Ireland, know that many of these poor men are in a state bordering on starvation, and I appeal to the Home Secretary to introduce, if possible, something into this Bill which 65 will remove that cause of hardship. The financial provision required to remedy this grievance would be relatively small, and it would meet a really unanswerable case. Therefore I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to give us an assurance that before the Bill leaves this House it will be amended in some such direction as I have indicated; or, if that be not possible owing to the character of the Bill, I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us an assurance that either he or some other Member of the Government will bring in a Bill dealing with these undoubted and really intolerable grievances of the Irish police pensioners. That would be doing, what I think the House would desire to do, namely, fair justice to these men who have honourably served their country, often in times of great difficulty and danger, and who are deserving of fair and honourable treatment.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I should like to join in the appeals which have been made from various quarters of the House asking the Home Secretary to consider the case of those police pensioners who were compelled to retire just before the 1st April, 1919. The date was an unfortunate one. I admit that no one could tell that the Report of the Desborough Committee in July would give a date so far back as the 1st April, but the fact remains that that was done, and it has placed a great number of men in a very difficult position. Not only were pensioners kept on during the War who should have retired many years earlier, but men who served their time during the War retired just before that particular date. I know of one instance in which a man who occupied a very high position in the police force was approached and asked if he would retire, merely in order to give an opportunity for someone else to come on and take the position which he held, so as to increase promotion. He very patriotically gave up his position; and what was the result? The pension which he is now receiving is, I believe I am right in saying, less than the pensions which is now awarded to an ordinary constable, and yet this man served for a very long time—I think for 30 years—in the police force, and rose by his own ability to a high position. This is not an isolated case; there are many cases of a similar kind; and I would earnestly entreat the 66 Home Secretary to see if he cannot make some provision for these particular cases. They are cases of special hardship, although they are not very numerous, and it would not be necessary to provide a very large sum of money or to go back very far. It is not only an anomaly, but it amounts almost to unfairness, and I am sure the Home Secretary himself would be the last man who would wish to do anything that was unfair. This is unjust and unfair, and I beg the Home Secretary to consider the plea which has been put forward by so many hon. Members to-day, that he should give consideration to the point.
I should like also to support the hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) in the few words that he spoke on behalf of the pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary. These men are placed in a very difficult position. As the House knows, they are absolutely barred from any kind of private employment just because they were policemen, and the result is that they are in a peculiar position, in which the police of this country can never be placed. I have a letter before me which states that the small pension which they are receiving is only sufficient to prevent absolute starvation. The age clause is a hardship, and the £150 income provision is little short of cruelty. This is a letter which I have received from one who is well versed in the subject in Ireland. I would earnestly join with the hon. and learned Member for York in asking the Home Secretary to give further consideration to the hard cases of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
If the Chancellor of the Exchequer were here I think he would be able to make a point against those hon. Members who are pressing for more funds for certain deserving police officers, while the need for economy in the country is so pressing. I myself have felt that on more than one occasion, when I have been approached by very deserving ex-members of the police force who have asked that their pensions might be increased. Indeed, I wrote to that effect in one case, and my correspondent sent me a rather good reply. He said, "You are voting away millions of money for the Civil Service; you are voting away millions of money for stationery alone; and yet you write and tell me that you cannot see your way to press the Home Secretary, or the Prime Minister, or Who- 67 ever the Minister may be, for a small increase in my pension," his pension being among those cases which hon. Members have brought to the notice of the Home Secretary to-day. If we cast our eyes about this House at the present moment, we see paper scattered here and scattered there. That paper has been manufactured and printed upon; labour has been spent upon it; and it is littered now about the House. That goes on every day that we sit here. In this House alone, how many hundreds of pounds a year are wasted simply upon paper? If we were to economise in stationery, and to apply the money saved to raising the pensions of deserving men, we should be able to do it without incurring the reproach that outside we preach economy and here we press for the Treasury Estimates to be increased. Therefore, I join with those hon. Members who have already spoken in asking the Home Secretary to try and increase the pensions of these men who retired before the date when the latest increases came into force. I myself, and I daresay other hon. Members also, have had many letters from them, and their cases, I imagine, are well known to the Home Secretary himself.
I would particularly reinforce the claims which have been made that the Royal Irish Constabulary should be included in this Bill. Their case is an extraordinarily hard one, and if the House could be given a free vote on the question, "Shall these pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary be left to starve or not?" I am certain that their case would be carried by an overwhelming majority. I have asked the Home Secretary—who himself is an ex-Chief Secretary for Ireland—many questions on this subject, and he knows these cases perfectly well. I do not wish to go into them now, and, indeed, I should probably be out of order if I did so, but I should like to tell the House in a few words about one case, that of a constable who was wounded at the time of the rebellion in 1916. He was shot through the groin, and in consequence one of his legs is shorter than the other. He was incapacitated for further service, and after a few months was invalided out of the Force. What was his pension? He was invalided out of the Force in October, 1916, and his pension was £26 8s. per annum. His case was taken up in another place, and it was increased to £50, and he was told the minute he got fit to do 68 any work at all—the minute he got off crutches—employment would be given to him in some Government position. The local police made inquiries to see if they could get a job for him, and that continued for nearly a year, while he was still crippling along on crutches. When he became able to walk with a stick, he applied for a Treasury sortership, or some similar employment, but was told by the inspector-general's private secretary that no job could be found for him, and he therefore had to live or die on his £50 a year. He then applied to headquarters for some assistance, but, owing to the state of the country, no one would give him employment. That is one concrete case of a kind that comes to me and other hon. Members day after day. We do ask that something should now be done. It is only a small thing that we ask, namely, that the Chief Secretary for Ireland should back this Bill with the Home Secretary, and that this particular Clause should be eliminated which says that the Bill shall not apply to Ireland except so far as is otherwise stated. That, surely, is the simplest way of dealing with the matter. Otherwise, these men will again be left out in the cold. We shall be told by every Chief Secretary and by every Member of the Government individually that they think the case ought to be met, but that they cannot get the money from the Treasury. I suggest that the money can be found if savings are made in other directions, and therefore I ask the Home Secretary, as an ex-Chief Secretary for Ireland, and as one who knows these cases as well as or better than I do, to do his level best to get these men included.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
As I happen to be the only Member from Ireland in the House at the moment, I may be allowed to endorse what has fallen from the hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) and from the hon. and gallant Member for Finchley (Colonel Newman) with regard to the Irish police pensioners. It has been pointed out that the Home Secretary has been at the Irish Office and knows the position of these men; and, if he wishes for further endorsement, he can ask the Minister of Pensions, whom I see also on the Front Bench, and who also has been at the Irish Office. I had no idea that any discussion on the subject of Irish police pensions would be permitted on this Bill, or I could have 69 given the House a great many cases showing the hardships which these men are suffering. As everyone who is acquainted with Ireland knows, the idea of a pensioner getting employment in many parts of Ireland is ridiculous. They are dependent on their utterly inadequate pensions as their sole means of livelihood. If this Bill should pass in its present form, without any provision for the pensions of the Royal Irish Constabulary, grievance will be piled upon grievance, and those hon. Members who take an interest in the force will be inundated with complaints. I appeal to the Home Secretary to do his best to have this matter considered as favourably as he possibly can.
§ Mr. JESSON
I desire to thank the Home Secretary for introducing this Bill, and to endorse heartily everything that has been said with regard to police pensioners. There is one aspect of the case which has not been touched upon, at any rate in my hearing. I have come across a large number of police pensioners who were invited to join up again in the Military Forces when the War broke out, while at the same time many of them were offered positions in munition works, where they could have earned from £5 to £8 per week. They regarded it as a matter of duty to join up with the Forces, and to sacrifice those offers in munition departments. As a, result of that, some of those men suffered a monetary loss of from £600 to £800 during the War, and they say that the sacrifice which they made at that time for the country, in joining up again and giving up the opportunity of earning good wages in munition factories, ought to be taken into consideration now. I think the Home Secretary will agree that a sacrifice of £600 during four years entitles those men to some further consideration. £600 would go a long way towards providing all the wives with the £30 which is given to some and withheld from others. In addition, it would help towards providing them with the modest increase in their pension that they are asking for. On these grounds alone I suggest that the Home Secretary ought to give the most favourable consideration possible to these men who made such an important sacrifice.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.