HC Deb 01 August 1922 vol 157 cc1340-5

C. Any officer or constable of the force who since the first day of January nineteen hundred and nineteen has been retired by reason of unfitness caused by injury inflicted in the course of his duty shall be entitled if still living to the same pension as he would have been awarded if he had continued to serve up to the date of disbandment under this Act.


This, again, is a privilege Amendment, and also goes beyond the Money Resolution


I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

As I explained in my opening remarks, this is an Amendment which I accept in practice, but which cannot incorporate in the Bill, because it is not only a breach of privilege, but is outside the Financial Resolution. I assured the House, however, in my opening remarks, that I had made arrangements with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he has agreed that on and after 1st. April, 1919, those police officers and men who had been injured during the course of their duties in Ireland would have their wound or injury pensions levelled up to what their compensation allowance would have been had they remained unwounded in the force up to the time disbandment. That is a concession which I am very glad indeed to make, and one in which, I am sure, the House will support me. I can only make it by amending what is known as the R.I.C. Pension Order, 1922, which I shall forthwith set about doing. I hope that the House will disagree with this Amendment on that understanding.


There is one point on which I am still not quite clear. The Chief Secretary has said that he would introduce provisions into the Pensions Regulations which would enable men who had been wounded to have their pensions levelled up to the same position as unwounded men who were disbanded at the winding up of the Royal Irish Constabulary. As the right hon. Gentleman will remember, however, wounded men who remained in the Royal Irish Constabulary until the date of disbandment of the force were entitled, and are entitled, to receive a contribution to the award which was given them in respect of their wounds, in addition to the compensation which they would have received on being demobilised in the ordinary way. What I want to be sure about is that the men who had to leave the Royal Irish Constabulary, owing to their having been wounded in the discharge of their duty, prior to the date of disbandment, will be in the same position as those who were able to remain in the force until the date of disbandment, but who were also wounded prior to the date of disbandment. These men to whom I have referred last, who were wounded, but not so severely as to necessitate discharge from the Royal Irish Constabulary before the time came for disbandment, will be entitled, not only to the allowance which all constables receive on disbandment, but also to a special allowance in respect of their wounds. I should like an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that those men who were wounded, and were obliged to leave the force because of their wounds before the date came for disbandment, shall not be in a worse position than the men who were wounded and were disbanded at the date of the disbandment of the force.


The House will not quarrel with, but will rather welcome, the concession which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to make in this matter. He appears, however, to have fixed upon let April, 1919, as the date from which this concession will operate, while their Lordships, I observe, fix 1st January, 1919. If I understand the position aright, I take it that officers and constables who, by reason of unfitness caused by injuries inflicted in the course of their duties, retired before 1st April, 1919, will not receive any advantage from the amendment of the. Pension Order which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to make. If my view as to that he correct, it seems to me to involve a great injustice to, it may be, a number of men who, because of wounds, were compelled to retire from the Service prior to 1st April, 1919. The right hon. Gentleman, in his opening statement, said that he thought he had covered those cases substantially. What does he mean by substantially? Does he mean that there were a few, it may be a minority, who retired from the force before 1st April, 1919, on account of wounds caused in the course of their duty, and who will no4 have the pensions which were allocated to them on the basis of wounds increased by the concession that he is now proposing?

I think the House is entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us some figures as to how many of these constables and officers were compelled to retire from the force, by reason of wounds, prior to 1st April, 1919. If I understand aright the feeling of the House in this matter, it is that no officer or constable should be done any injustice in connection with it, and the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is willing to accept their Lordships' provision by way of amending the Pension Order, is an indication that he also shares the generous view of the House. I ventured, in my remarks following the right hon. Gentleman's opening statement, to call attention to this matter, and I was hoping that he would give us the figures for which I asked. I must say I am disappointed that he has not done so. I have a feeling that some of these officers will not have their pensions increased, and, if that be so, we shall, in accepting even the concession proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, be doing an injustice to those who retired before 1st April, 1919. I should be glad to have some assurance that, all who retired from this force by reason of wounds or injuries sustained in the course of their duty will have the benefit of this concession.


I desire to support the view put forward by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. A. Short), and it is all the more important because men who retired before 1st April, 1919, got, in the ordinary course, a most miserable pension, as my right hon. Friend will agree. It was ludicrously small. Those who retired after 1st April 1919, had their pensions very much improved, and, therefore, the point urged by my hon. Friend becomes all the more important. Otherwise the man who retired before 1st April 1919, on this wretched pension, and who was wounded at the same time, will not only receive a totally inadequate pension on account of his wound, but will lose the benefit of the Disbandment Act, and receive far less, because he is wounded, than if he had not been wounded, for he loses two or three years in the Service, he bcomes a, cripple for life, and, in addition to that, has a far smaller pension than he would have had if he had not been wounded and if he had retired at the date of disbandment. I hope that when the Pensions Order, 1922, is revised, as my right hon. Friend has promised it shall be, he will take this point into account.


The point raised by the hon. Memoer for Wednesbury (Mr. A. Short) is the point as to date. Their Lordships, in another place, wished the date to be put back to 1st January, 1919, but the date which I am compelled to take is 1st April, 1919, and for this reason. It was on 1st April, 1919, that all the police forces in Great Britain and Ireland started on new scales of pay and pension, following the Report of Lord Desborough's Committee. I cannot go further back in meeting the cases of these men; I must fix that, as the starting date, and, therefore, the period between 1st January and 1st April. 1919, cannot come in. I am glad to say. however, that I am informed that none of these cases arise in that particular period, and, therefore, there is no practical reason for including it, but I could not include it in any case, for administrative reasons. I cannot go into the case of these pro-April, 1919, pensions again. I admit that there are many hard cases, not only in Ireland but in this country as well, where the scale is much lower before April, 1919, than after that date.

7.0 p.m.

The point raised by the hon. Member for Kensington (Sir W. Davison) is with reference to two classes of injured constables. There is the constable who was injured on duty, who recovers from his injury, continues on duty, and is absorbed into the force; and as a rule, when a man is injured in an ambush or anything of that sort, promotion or other award follows. That is not the case with which we are dealing in this Amendment. The case we are now dealing with is that of a man who has been injured since 1st April, 1919. and who, because of the seriousness of his injury, is unable to continue serving in the force. Then he retires from the force with a special injury pension. In some cases—not in many, I am glad to say—his wound pension is less than his compensation allowance would have been had he remained unwounded up to the date of disbandment. I think it would meet his case if he were not disadvantaged by the wound he received in the course of his duty. All these injured men, whether in the force at the time of disbandment or not. also get a malicious injury award quite independent of the compensation allowance we have given. This is unique, and in no other country are malicious injury awards given to members of a police force for doing their duty.

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