HC Deb 14 May 1926 vol 195 cc1134-9

Order for Second Reading read.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This Bill is a very small one. The House knows, probably, that under the Police Pensions Act, of 1921, there was a deduction made of 2½ per cent from police pay towards the cost of those pensions.


I understood that this Bill was not coming on to-day.


I have had no notice that this Bill was to be postponed. I desire to meet the convenience of the House, but I know nothing about a postponement.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not withdraw it


I understand arrangements were made through the usual channels for this Bill and the succeeding Bill to be postponed, on the ground that certain persons w ho are interested are not here.

The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Commander Eyres Monsell)

The arrangement which I came to yesterday was that if the Debate which we had yesterday was continued to-day, we should only lake the first Order, which we have just disposed of, and the Criminal Appeal (Scotland) Bill, but that if the Debate was not continued, we should consider the Bills in the order they stand in the Papers. I have already arranged with the Party opposite not to proceed with the Lead Paint (Protection against Poison) Bill because I understand some correspondence is passing. But we really cannot hold up the whole business of this House and the question of police pensions, because one hon. Member does not choose to be present. He has had ample warning. I have already put the Bill off once, and I can conceive no reason why hon. Members should not be in their places to continue the ordinary business of the country.


There is no reason for the hon. and gallant Member to talk in that manner. I have been informed by our Whips that that was the arrangement, but if the hon. and gallant Gentleman says otherwise, I accept it. There is, however, no need to get up and make accusations about people not being here or not doing their duty.


I did not say that.


There is no Amendment to this Bill on the Order Paper, and one was under the impression that the hon. Member who takes an interest in this Measure was not going to submit an Amendment for the rejection.


I think I had better go on with my remarks. I understood it was quite an agreed Bill. Under the Act of 1921 there was a deduction of 2½ per cent. from the police pay towards the cost of their pensions. When the Geddes Committee got to work they decided that there should be a further deduction from police pay of 2½ per cent., and that certain deductions should be made from the rent allowance paid to the police. When I was appointed to the post I now hold, I had many conferences with the police, and I was very anxious to remove what was, undoubtedly, a grievance in the minds of the police. I subsequently appointed a Committee, with Lord Lee of Fareham as Chairman, and, as a result, a compromise was arrived at entirely to the satisfaction of the police, and equally to the satisfaction of the local authorities and Home Office, who are jointly responsible for the cost of this force. I should like to say how splendidly the police behaved in this matter, and still behave. The proposal was a compromise of 2½ per cent., making 5 per cent. of reduction of pay for the purpose of providing what was desired. I gave an undertaking, which I repeat now, that while I was Home Secretary I should make no further suggestion to alter the pay of the police force.

This Bill is divided into two parts. One of them carries out that undertaking. I have reason to think, indeed I am perfectly certain, that there is no member of the police force who desires to oppose the carrying out by Parliament of this. The second part of the Bill is absolutely in favour of some members of the police force. I hardly like now to refer at this terrible time to the police strike of 1919, but what happened was that there were a considerable number of members of the police force who struck, and were refused to be taken back. Many of those had served a considerable time in various forces, and, as it were, had earned a certain right or expectation of pension or gratuity at the conclusion of their service. There was no power to give them that when dismissed, for they lost all their rights. When the Bill of 1921 was passed it gave to local authorities and to local police authorities the power, when a man left the police force without any gratuity, to consider whether they would give him anything. It was optional, and that power was not retrospective. My right hon. predecessor appointed a Committee in 1924 to consider the whole position of these men of the police forces who struck, to consider whether they should or should not be reinstated. That Committee, known as Sir William Mackenzie Committee—Sir William was Chairman of it—took a very large amount of evidence and reported to the Home Office. While they came to the conclusion that the action of the Home Office must not be interfered with, they also came to the conclusion that where a member of a police force—but I need not read the whole—I will read this— That police authorities be authorised in their discretion to apply the whole or any part of the deductions which have been made in the pay of the police before 1919, in such manner as they think fit for the benefit of the wife, widow, or children, and for this purpose we recommend that legislation be brought in. The second part of this Bill carries out that recommendation. I have taken pains to inquire from the local authorities throughout the kingdom who are responsible for the provisional police forces, as to whether or not they desired this legislation to be brought in, because it places a responsibility on them to decide, in the particular list of cases of the men who struck, which they will have to go through, to decide whether or not a gratuity shall be given to these men out of the Police Fund. All but two of the local authorities replied in favour of the proposal, and asked for the passage of this Bill.

It is intended that this Bill shall extend the provisions of the Act of 1921 to those men who ceased to be members of the police forces on strike in 1919. That is to say, that the local authority shall have the right to go into each case and consider whether, in their view, it is desirable that some gratuity should be given to the men whom they were no longer able to retain in the force. This provision is entirely in favour of the men themselves. I cannot think that any hon. Member will desire to prevent this part of the Bill going through. I certainly hope the House would not think of refusing the Bill, which is entirely in favour of the men who were removed from the police forces.

My right hon. Friend the Chief Whip has just made a communication to me, from which it appears that there has been a misunderstanding, and that because of that misunderstanding hon. Members of the Labour Party who are very much interested in these matters are unable to be here. I should not like to do anything against the views of the House. I have always endeavoured, as Minister, to carry on my work to meet the convenience of the House. Under these circumstances I do not propose to ask for the Second Reading of the Bill now. I should like it to be postponed. I hope, however, the House will not expect me to make a second speech, pleased as I am always to meet opponents in debate, but that hon. Members will do me the favour, if they get the opportunity, of reading my remarks in the Official Report.


Not in the "British Gazette."?


Not in the "British Gaeztte." The "British Gazette," having admirably fulfilled its functions, has folded its tents like the Arabs, And silently faded away. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." [Commander Eyres Monsell.]


On this Motion I should like to put it to the Home Secretary that there is an hon. Member opposite, the Member for one of the divisions of Liverpool, who wanted to draw attention to various matters connected with the Bill. I do not know that he wants to move any Motion against the Bill, but I should like to point out that this Bill has been put off before. I do not know that any hon. Members have any intention of opposing it. They simply want to call attention to one or two matters. I desire also to go into one or two points in connection with it, which I am quite sure the Home Secretary will be able to meet, and do his best to help us. What, however, I want to know at the moment is this. Could not the right hon. Gentleman take this Bill at a time convenient for those interested, and could it not be taken as the first Order after Questions on one day early next week? I should be glad if something of the kind is possible. It will not take long, and it is desirable to have it put down early in the sitting instead of having it put as the very last Order which may run it into the early hours of ale morning when everybody wants to get away.


I cannot quite understand the protest by the hon. Member opposite, because a day or two ago I personally consulted him on this matter, and found him perfectly agreeable to the postponement of the discussion of this Bill. I think he may take it that so far as we on this side are concerned this is not a fractious opposition to the Bill, but we desire this postponement in order that special interests which are concerned may have adequate expression in this House, and I cannot see why we should extract from the Home Secretary any pledge that would bind us to take the Bill on a special day. I expect the Bill will be taken at the earliest possible moment, and that will be facilitated, as far as we are concerned.


I hope the hon. Member opposite does not think that I am protesting against anything that was arranged a day or two ago, but we want to have the discussion of the Bill fixed for as early a date as possible which will be convenient to both sides. That is all I am asking for.


I am sure my hon. Friend will realise that the allocation of the business of the House must be in the hands of the Chief Whip, but I will do my best to get him to put this Bill down at a somewhat early stage one day. I have found that Home Office Bills are very often put down for the end of the day because the Home Secretary is known to be a short speaker. I will come down one day and make a speech of about three hours, and then we may get our Bills a little earlier in the day.

Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.

Debate accordingly adjourned; to be resumed upon Monday next.