§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 1.11 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Police pensions now paid are the subject of a great many Acts of Parliament. They are very complicated as a result and we have taken this opportunity of doing a good deal of simplification. The reason for having a Bill at this particular time is that some provision must be made in order to see that proper integration between the present police pensions and the Measures of social security coming into effect on 5th July of this year shall take place in time.
In order that the House may be fully informed of the extent of the changes which are involved, it may be as well if I state precisely what they are. After 30 years' service now, a police constable on retirement is entitled to a pension of two-thirds of his salary. When the National Insurance Scheme comes into effect, the following arrangements will become operative. A constable on retirement, who will be somewhere between 50 and 60 years of age, will still be entitled to a pension of two-thirds of his salary. Like everyone else in the community, he will have been a contributor under the new National Insurance Scheme, with the result that at the age of 65 he will get an additional pension of 26s. a week for himself and, if married, of 16s. a week for his wife. Under the regulations to be made under the Bill, a reduction of 1s. a week will be made from the rateable deductions from his pay in respect of this National Insurance pension and in consequence his police pension when he attains the age of 65 will be reduced by 19s. 6d. a week; that is to say, if he is a single man, or a widower, his pension on reaching the age of 65 will be increased by a net 6s. 6d. a week—26s. extra from the National Insurance fund, minus 19s. 6d. deducted in respect of a reduction in his contribution of 1s. a week. His contribution to the scheme will also be reduced 2d. a week in respect of the benefits he will secure under the Industrial Injuries Scheme in future.
A police officer who is found guilty of certain offences after retirement may 2084 suffer forfeiture of pension in common with other person who receive pensions from the State. That forfeiture will of course, only apply to the police pension. The National Insurance pension is of a different category and will not be affected by anything that will happen to the police pension. In addition, some modifications have been made in the grounds on which forfeiture can take place in future. At present forfeiture can take place if the retired police officer knowingly associates with thieves, or reputed thieves.
We have decided, after consultation with the Police Councils that if retired police officers like to have friendly relationships with former customers, we shall not deprive them of their pension as a result. He could also forfeit his pension if he refused to give to the police all information and assistance in his power for the detection of crime, for the apprehension of criminals, or for the suppression of any disturbance of the public peace. We see no reason for putting a retired police officer under other responsibilities in those matter than those which fall on the ordinary citizen. In fact, possibly, by withdrawing this ground of forfeiture, we may emphasise the fact that speaking generally, those are requirements which every good citizen ought to undertake.
We propose to modify a further ground for forfeiture. At present the pension is forfeited if the man enters into, or continues to carry on, any business, occupation or employment which is illegal or in which he has made use of the fact of former employment in the police in a manner which the police authority considers to be discreditable, or improper. In future, forfeiture under that provision can only take place after warning has been given to the man that if he continues in a certain course of conduct his pension will be placed in jeopardy. If, after warning he decided to continue, it would be agreed that he had been given a reasonable opportunity of mending his ways.
It will be seen that the new Bill differs from the former provisions in that power is taken to prescribe the exact details of the pensions by regulation. One of the difficulties of dealing adequately with police pensions from time to time has been the fact that hitherto it has been necessary to have an Act of Parliament if the slightest alteration was to be made. I am 2085 not asking the House to vote blindly in giving this power of making regulations. In conjunction with the Secretary of State for Scotland, I have published a White Paper which gives in considerable detail a statement of the regulations which it is proposed to make, and the House will, therefore, be in full possession of what the intentions of the two Departments are.
It is, of course, impracticable to continue the existing police pensions code and the National Insurance Scheme with both applying in full to policemen. I know that the amount of contributions which would be required would be beyond what the police feel they can afford to pay. I have taken this opportunity of achieving what I hope the House will agree is the very desirable object of enabling a single general police pensions code to be drawn up.
Some of the Measures alluded to in the First Schedule to the Bill indicate some of the complexities which at present arise, and it is to the advantage of all concerned, both police officers and police authorities and the officers of police authorities who have to calculate pensions, that they should be able to refer to one general code instead of having to take several Acts into consideration. The Schedule and Clause 2 (4) provide that a large number of the existing provisions shall cease to have effect when the main body of regulations is made except to the extent that the regulations provide to the contrary. The existing complicated provisions must inevitably continue to apply in respect of existing pensioners. Their rights are fully secured, and although this does not make for greater simplicity, I am sure that no one would desire that anything should be done which would worsen the position of existing pensioners. The only alterations that apply to them are those which I have detailed in regard to forfeiture. These particular provisions apply to officers who have served in the past as well as to those who are now serving.
I hope that the House will feel that I have provided sufficient safeguards against the arbitrary use of the regulation-making powers, and in particular for consultation with the Police Council, on which all the interests in the police service are represented. I have also to obtain the consent of the Treasury, and the regulations have to be laid before Parliament. 2086 The proposals for inclusion in the new scheme have already been considered by the Police Council, and it can be taken that general agreement has been reached on the lines indicated in the White Paper.
Perhaps I might make a few comparisons with existing provisions beyond those I have already made. Pensions and gratuities will be paid to retired policemen on grounds of long service or ill-health, with special provision for those who have to retire because of incapacity caused by injury or disease received in the execution of their duty. Continued provision is also made for the payment of pensions and allowances to widows, children and dependants, with some improvement, from the man's point of view, on the existing provisions.
I ought to say a few words about the problem of the widow's pension, because I have from time to time received representations in regard to it. The existing widow's pension is £30 a year, with the appropriate additions under the various Pensions Increases Acts, which in fact bring it up to £42 a year for most of these women. This will be increased in three years from 5th July, 1948, which is the date when the National Insurance Scheme comes fully into operation, by a pension of 26s. a week. It is a matter of regret to me that I have not been able to come to an arrangement with the Police Federation whereby an increase in the widow's pension could take place. One of my predecessors appointed a Committee over which the late Lord Snell presided, to inquire into the problem of the widow's pension. They recommended that the pension should be increased to £52 a year from the £30 at which it then stood and now stands. But a concomitant recommendation was that the rateable de-deductions for the Service should be increased from 5 to 7 per cent. In addition to the recommendation for a pension of £52, there was a recommendation that there should be a supplementation for existing widows, according to their need. It is a matter of regret to me that up to the present the Police Federation have not found themselves able to agree to the increase in the rateable deductions which were recommended by the Snell Committee. I would very much have liked to do something for the widows, but it was necessary to take the Snell's Committee Report as a whole, and not merely 2087 to choose that part which would be favourable to the Service.
This is a Measure which I hope will command the general support of the House. It preserves for the Police Service a special place in the pensions schemes of the country. It continues to give to a man at a comparatively early age a very substantial pension indeed. It enables him also to obtain from the National Insurance Fund the full benefits that will be secured by every other citizen in the country. I hope that as a result the work of the police will be suitably recognised by the community, and that the members of this Service, which in a time of great difficulty for it is maintaining its highest traditions, will continue to receive the respect and esteem of their fellow citizens.
§ Mr. Stubbs (Cambridgeshire)
Will the pensions of present widows eventually be brought up to the new scale? Secondly, where do they stand when the new Insurance Scheme comes into operation in July?
§ Mr. Ede
They will not come into the new scheme on 5th July, because their husbands have not been contributors. No police officer's widow benefits from the new scheme until 5th July, 1951, because it is only after three years' contributions that the ordinary civilian widow—where a civilian himself has not been a contributor—will come into benefit. The police widows are in exactly the same position as the widows of any other persons who have not previously contributed to the National Insurance Fund.
§ 1.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Grimston (Westbury)
It is not the intention of myself or my hon. Friends to do other than support this Bill on the Second Reading, but there are questions raised by the Bill which we shall have to examine at a later stage. As the Home Secretary has said, this Bill has been brought in, partly as a consolidating Measure, and partly to meet the new set of circumstances which will arise through integration of the new social insurance schemes with Police pensions. We are making a very big departure in principle, because until now, policemen have had their pensions guaranteed by Act of Parliament. In the future that guarantee will no longer exist. Their pensions will 2088 be provided for them under regulations. Moreover, the regulations will be subject only to the negative procedure of this House, and cannot be amended.
The complications which may arise through the integrating of Police pensions with the new social insurance schemes will lead to variations having to be made from time to time which it will be inconvenient to bring before Parliament in the form of a Bill. While admitting that there is a case under those circumstances for acting under regulations, I think there are definitely certain things which must not be left to regulations, and should be embodied in the statute. Those are matters which we shall have to look at in the Committee stage. I wish to give one particular instance which I regard as very important. Under Clause 1 (3) of this Bill, the Secretary of State may make regulations as to the manner in which disputes are to be determined, and provisions as to the cases in which pensions are to be varied, suspended or terminated.
Under the Police Pensions Act now in force, a pensioner has the definite right, by Statute, to appeal to quarter sessions and on a point of law to the higher courts. That is a valuable right, and this House should be very careful before it takes away that statutory right and makes the matter—perhaps it would be a little unkind to say on the whim of a Home Secretary—merely subject to regulations which need not necessarily be brought before this House. It is true that in the Command Paper which the Home Secretary has been good enough to produce before the Second Reading of this Bill, it is announced that regulations will make provision for this right to be continued, but I wish to draw the attention of the House to the second paragraph, in which it says:This Paper sets out the main provisions which, in the light of discussions at the English and Scottish Police Councils, are likely to be included in the first regulations to be submitted to Parliament.However well-intentioned the Home Secretary may be—and one does not question his intentions at all—I think the House must be very careful before it parts with a Bill which leaves the position in this way, that the preservation of the right of a citizen to appeal to a court is left to something which is likely to be included in the regulations. I do not think we should be discharging our res- 2089 ponsibilities in the House if we left the matter in that position. There will be other things, but on this particular point I believe that that right should definitely be included in the Statute.
It is true that the regulations are subject to negative procedure, but I think that in the matter of the pensions conditions of the Police forces of this country—which is very important—the Government should be compelled to bring these matters before the House of Commons. When we come to the Committee stage I hope that the Home Secretary will accept an Amendment to see that these matters are brought under the affirmative procedure. That is quite apart from the other questions, one of which I have instanced, which we consider ought to be included in the Statute in any event.
I wish to be quite clear as to the present position of pensioners. As I understand it—and I am subject to correction—a present pensioner is completely protected under Clause 2, and his pension and rights will be quite unaffected. With regard to the present pensioner who is married, with his wife still alive, I take it that the rights which she is expecting to obtain in the present position my be altered by regulation. In the case of men serving in the Police Force at the present moment, I take it that they are to have the choice as to whether they will go on paying the present deductions and get the full Police pension, and the whole of the new insurance benefits when they come into force, or whether they will modify their Police pension contribution and then enjoy something less. I take it that they will definitely have the choice between those two alternatives?
§ Mr. Grimston
That is what I wished to be quite clear about. The existing people will definitely have that choice. In other words, if they like to go on paying they can have the whole of the new pension and the whole of the social insurance pension, but those who enter after the appointed day will not be allowed to enjoy both pensions to the full.
The House will, no doubt, remember that fairly recently—I cannot remember 2090 exactly when it was—the Royal Warrant in connection with pensions in respect of widows and children of men who had been disabled in the war was altered, in order that a pension might be awarded to a widow who had married a man after his disablement, and children, who had been born after the disablement, could be included. It seems to me that in the case of a policeman who has to be retired from the Force owing to disablement incurred in the execution of his duty—and not by accident—he should enjoy this extension of rights recently granted to the disabled ex-Service man. I raise the point on the Second Reading, and it is one we might look at in Committee.
As will have been realised, most of the matters that I mention are Committee points, but I feel uneasy that the whole realm of these conditions is being taken out of the statutory position, if I may use that term, and made subject to regulations. We shall have to be very careful, if we are eventually going to allow it to be passed in this form, to pull as much back into the Statute as we can, especially where rights of appeal are concerned.
The Home Secretary has said that we want a contented Police Force of the highest standard. In order to attract the right type of man, we must give him as much certainty as we can in regard to the conditions under which he joins the Force, and we should endeavour to assure him that those conditions will not be arbitrarily changed during his service. In so far as those conditions may be subject to regulation by the Home Secretary, an element of uncertainty will exist in the future such as did not exist in the past. That may well militate against recruiting. It is known that the Police Forces are short of men now. We must do all that we can to encourage recruiting. Though perhaps this is a small point in comparison with the wide question of principle, we must not lose sight of it. I hope that when we come to the Committee stage the Home Secretary will be prepared to consider very sympathetically the points which I have raised.
§ 1.41 p.m.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
I must say in my opening sentence that this Bill may have connotations vastly wider than appear on the surface. It comes to us as a Bill 2091to make provision as to the pensions to be paid to … members of police forces and their widows, children and dependants.But, as I shall show later, we may find that, in fact, in this Bill we are setting a pattern which will affect not merely the 60,000 or so men employed in the Police force, but some 720,000 employed in the Civil Service, some million or so employed in the local government service, some scores of thousands employed in the teaching service, some few thousand employed in the prison service, and so on. At a later stage in my remarks, I will ask the House to be good enough to give the closest attention to that aspect of my argument, because we do not want to find at the end of the day that, under the guise of dealing with 60,000 policemen, we have in fact taken committal steps which affect approximately two million people in the public services of Britain. I will come to that point later, but I mention it now because this is of the greatest importance to the public service and to the House.
I join with the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) in representing to the Home Secretary that a far more extensive use is being made of the method of regulation under this Bill than is, in my opinion, right and proper. I would agree that there are many points on which, if he ever wants to alter them, he does not want to have to come to the House of Commons to obtain permission. I recognise that there are many points touching the pensions of the police which can properly be dealt with by the method of regulation. But the issue is not whether the method of regulation should be used: it is the degree to which it is to be used.
Hon. Members will see that this Bill is entitled, "Police Pensions Bill," and then the words of paragraph 1 of the Explanatory Memorandum say:The purpose of the Bill is to make provision as to the pensions, including gratuities and other similar allowances, to be paid to members of police forces and their widows, children and dependants.—After reading those words one would expect that, on looking inside the Bill, one would find what were the pensions that were to be given; under what conditions they were to be given, what the basis of the calculation of the pensions would be, what the facilities for appeal in the case of dispute would be, and so forth. In 2092 other words, one would not expect the Bill to cover every fine detail, but one would emphatically expect the Bill to cover the fundamental and main provisions of the Police Pensions scheme. I submit that it ought to cover at least four points. First, it ought to cover the legal entitlement to pension. This Bill does not even give a legal entitlement to pension. Even that fundamental thing, the basis of everything else, is left to regulation. I submit that the Bill certainly ought to include the legal entitlement to pension. It ought to cover the right of appeal on medical grounds; the right of the policeman to sue in the courts to sustain his rights; and, finally, it ought to give us, if not the amount of the pension, at least the basis for the calculation of the pension.
I suggest that there is no difficulty whatever in covering those four fundamental points in the text of the Bill. Indeed, in all other superannuation Acts—and the House has had a great deal of collective experience of superannuation Acts from 1831 onwards—it has been found possible to include the entitlement to pension, the broad conditions under which it is earned, and the basis by which it is calculated. If it has not been impossible to do that in respect of teachers, local government officers, civil servants, and all sorts of other people, it ought not to be impossible to put that in the Bill dealing with the pensions of policeman. If the hon. Member for Westbury puts down an Amendment to that effect when we come to the Committee stage, he will find the whole support of my party mobilised behind him.
The Bill tells us that regulations will be issued by the Home Secretary after consultation with the Police Council. I would like to emphasise this, because it is essential that we should be clear. If we give this Bill a Second Reading today, we shall not know what the regulations are to be. We know what is in the mind of the Home Secretary. He has been good enough to tell us what is in his mind in the form of the White Paper; but the passage of this Bill does not ensure that the regulations which will be issued after consultation with the Police Council will correspond with the contents of the Command Paper which has been given us. They may, or they may not: there is no assurance. We do not know what the Police Council will do.
2093 In my opinion, these are not matters for the Police Council at all. As a Member of Parliament I am not disposed to put the Police—for whom I, with every other Member, have a responsibility—at the mercy of the Police Council in determining what the pensions shall be. That is for Parliament to decide; not the Police Council. Indeed, I regard the Police Council as being a body not so composed that this House ought to repose its confidence in it in relation to this particular matter. I do not say that it does not do useful work. It is no part of my purpose to attack it root and branch. I limit myself to the statement that I do not think that Parliament ought to divest itself of its responsibility for the treatment of policemen, and put it in the hands of the Police Council.
The Home Secretary knows that I have pressed upon him, and upon his predecessors for many years past, that there ought to be proper machinery in the Police Force for the settlement of differences between the administration and officers of the force. Season in and season out I have pressed that. I was told that it would be improper to have a trade union of policemen because the police are what is called a disciplined force. I have given the reply, sometimes I fear almost to the point of reiteration, that the more disciplined a force is, the more essential it is that that force should not resort to the weapon of strike, and the more essential it is that the force should go on functioning in the public interest, then the more essential it is that the force should be provided with adequate means of settling, by conciliation and arbitration, issues which might arise between itself and the Home Office. That seems to me to follow absolutely automatically, and even axiomatically.
When I went to the Home Secretary's predecessor, the present Lord President of the Council, during the war and, with other Members, urged this upon him, I thought we had made some impression upon him. It is never safe to assume anything when dealing with the Lord President of the Council, but I did think we had made some impression; because at the end of the discussion he said, while there could be no radical change during the war, if we came back to the Home Office after the war, and re-submitted the case for the establishment of proper conciliation and arbitration machinery, 2094 it was probable that we should not find the door closed. He was not so rash as to say it would be open, but he did say it would not be closed. We were entitled to draw from that the assumption that it might at least be partly ajar. That would not be an unfair assumption. Since the end of the war I have approached the Home Secretary, as he knows, and I have made speeches in the House about it, and I have begged that policemen should have no more rights, but equally should have no less rights, than those possessed in Britain by the ordinary public servant—the civil servant, the prison officer and so forth.
There are two freedoms involved—the freedom of a man to join an organisation of his own choosing to protect his interests, and the right of the individual and his colleagues, if they cannot reach a settlement by agreement, to have access to an independent body which will give a decision. As long as the Home Office is judge and jury in its own case, there will never be contentment in the Police Force of Britain. I do not say that because I desire to generate discontent, but because I think it is utterly wrong that we should deny this body of men rights and facilities which we give unquestionably to public servants employed in another capacity. I do not think Parliament should pass to the Police Council this responsibility of determining what the regulations are to be, as proposed under the Bill.
The third point to which I come is the possible effect of this Bill upon the whole structure of pensions in the public service, in which there are approximately two million people employed. It is necessary to go back a little to make this point clear, but it is vital that it should be made clear if the House is to understand what may be the consequences of this Bill. Under the old social insurance legislation—the old Health Insurance Act, the former Old Age Pensions Act, the old Unemployment Insurance Act—established public servants, that is to say, public servants in respect of whom it could be certified that their employment was permanent, were not obliged to contribute to the social insurance legislation. They were not obliged to pay unemployment insurance contributions, or health insurance contributions, or to pay towards the old age pension. It is true 2095 that the public servant could do so if he desired; he could become a voluntary contributor under these earlier Acts of Parliament. But he was not compelled to contribute as an ordinary workman or a clerk in industry was compelled to contribute.
Under the new Act, which comes into operation in July, to which Act this Bill is related, civil servants and public servants generally are compelled to become contributors. The old choice of entering the scheme in a voluntary way or staying out disappears. They are compelled to become contributors to the new social insurance scheme just like every other citizen. I am not arguing against that at all. I always felt in the old days that it was a little anomalous that we should subtract from the total area of insurance certain specified tracts of extremely good lives, because the more good lives which are kept outside the scheme the more actuarially difficult it is for the less good lives, if I may so describe them, included in the scheme. I do not dissent in the least from the Home Secretary's view that public servants should come into this scheme.
But I ask the House to notice this great difference. I think the best way I can make it clear is to give an example. Supposing I were a civil servant whose maximum salary was £400 a year and who would retire at the age of 60, with half my retiring salary as pension—that is to say, £200. Supposing I said, "I do not want to drop from £400 to £200, and during my working life I will make provision by paying into an insurance company in order to secure an annuity of £200 when I reach the age of 60, so that my total income from pension and annuity will not be less than my income in the year before my retirement." Next, suppose the Government came along and said, "Because, by paying contributions to a private insurance company, you have obtained for yourself an annuity of £200, we shall not now pay you the £200 which we ought to pay you by way of pension." If any Government did that, I am quite sure every single Member of this House, without distinction of party, would regard it as an outrage.
The moral argument is not altered if the civil servant, instead of paying, to a private insurance company, pays into a State 2096 insurance scheme. If, by the conditions of his employment, he is entitled to a State pension, which he earns, and if he pays out of his own pocket into the State insurance scheme for certain benefits in his old age, then he is entitled both to the pension and to the benefits. He has paid for both—the one by his labour over the years, and the other by cash in common with every other member of the community. It would be an outrage to deprive a man of either of the elements which he has earned, either by his labour or by his money. That is an important point. Now this House has not yet dealt with the impact upon all the superannuation schemes which now exist—teachers' superannuation, local government servants' superannuation, prison officers' superannuation and many other categories—of the new social insurance legislation which comes into operation next July.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I think if the hon. Member looks back he will find that, in dealing with pensions, superannuation schemes as they affect workers have been taken into account and a certain allowance has been made. If a similar measure is taken with civil servants, that will be right in this country.
§ Mr. Brown
I am not quite sure that I understand to what particular point the hon. Member is referring, but I am limiting my remarks to the State pensions scheme. There may have been all sorts of adjustments and rearrangements in private industry, I do not pretend to know. I am limiting my own remarks to a field which I do know—the field of the public service. All I am saying is that the House has got to get to grips with this question and see to what extent the public servants in Great Britain from now on will come under the new social legislation and what effect it will have on the Superannuation Acts from 1831 up to 1947.
If we accept this Bill without getting some assurance, we may find at the end of the day that we have set a pattern in dealing with one element of the public service, the Police Force, which will be thrust upon us in relation to the vast number of two million people who comprise the public services of Great Britain. Later on, the House is likely to be told that it accepted this in principle in the case of the Police Pensions Bill, and that it cannot be resisted in relation to 2097 the teachers, local government officers, civil servants, and so on. I want to press the Home Secretary for the most categorical assurance that when we come to deal with the other public servants, we shall not be prejudiced or damnified in any way because of what we may or may not do on this particular Bill. This comes to us as a Home Office Bill. I am not at all sure that it is not a Treasury manoeuvre, the full deployment of which we shall see at a later stage.
I want to reassert the principle which ought to govern the Police and everybody. If a man is entitled to a pension by virtue of his labour, the Government are not entitled to take any part of that pension away for any consideration whatsoever. If I am a police officer and my contract with the State says that at the end of 30 years I am to have a pension of two-thirds of my retiring salary, the Government are not justified in abating that two-thirds pension by one iota because, in my capacity as a citizen, I subscribe to the social insurance fund and am entitled in certain eventualities to benefit from that fund.
§ Mr. Brown
I will come to that point in a moment. I am at the point raised by the Home Secretary when he intervened to ask what happens if a man says that he does not want to pay both contributions. My answer is that under the regulations based upon this Bill, so far as the new recruit to the Service is concerned, he is not given that option at all.
§ Mr. Ede
He makes a contract with the State on a known basis. He is coming in under circumstances where he will pay 4s. 11d. to the National Insurance Scheme and he will pay five per cent., which is now deducted, minus 1s. a week in recognition of the fact that he will not get as big a benefit as the man who has paid five per cent. of his salary.
§ Mr. Grimston
I want to put this point because I want it to be made perfectly clear. The man who is at present serving is not going to be interfered with, but let me put it this way—what the Home Secretary tells us is that in the future a person who wants to come into the Service will only be offered such conditions as those which he has just specified.
§ Mr. Ede
When a recruit joins the Force, he knows that he will pay his National Insurance contribution in respect of which he will get as a right whatever National Insurance benefits there may be. He knows that he will get a pension of two-thirds of his salary on completing 30 years' service until he reaches 65 years of age, and then he will suffer a reduction of 19s. 6d. per week plus an increase of 26s., a net increase of 6s. 6d., but because he is going to suffer a 19s. 6d. reduction he will pay 1s. a week less than other people have done. That will be part of his contract with the State into which he freely enters when he joins the Service. If he does not like the treatment, he is not compelled to enter the Service.
§ Mr. Brown
Let us carry that point further. Existing police officers have an option. So far as the new police officer is concerned, he will get no option except the option of refusing to come in, which he has always had. But it is axiomatic that we want people to come into the Prison and Police Services. What happens to the fellow who comes in the future? As things are, he will be entitled to retire after 30 years with a pension of two-thirds of his salary. From another source, the insurance fund, at the age of 65 he is entitled to a benefit in respect of the contribution he has paid in. That benefit, which he is entitled to, is set off against the pension which he has earned by his labour so that he is worse off than he ought to be.
§ Mr. Ede
What the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) will not face up to is the fact that this new recruit about whom we are talking—I think we can confine the argument to him for this purpose—pays less contribution than the existing man in the Police Force, and, therefore, on any actuarial basis is clearly entitled to less benefit at the end. The less benefit concerned is the losing of 19s. 6d. after he attains the age of 65. If 2099 he wanted to keep the existing rates of benefit, he should be compelled to pay the same as the man now in the service. Representations have been made to me—and I think they are justifiable—that two deductions from the man's wages—National Insurance plus the rateable deduction—are too much to ask a man to pay.
§ Mr. Brown
Perhaps we can deal with this in two bites. Let me make an assertion. Let me speak for the rest of the public service, excluding the Police Force for a moment, and say that I regard it as a matter of principle and an inalienable right for any member of the service to draw the pension he has earned by right and, in addition, by contributing to a State insurance scheme, to draw what benefits he is entitled to from that source.
§ Mr. Ede
I do not want to prolong this unnecessarily, but the hon. Member says he earns this pension by his labour. He earns it as a result of the scheme and, as a matter of fact, the Police Fund is part of a very highly subsidised pension scheme to which the State makes a very substantial contribution. This man does not earn this pension by his labour if by that is meant that it is a self-sufficient scheme. It is a very much better return than he can get by making a private arrangement with an insurance company or anybody else.
§ Mr. Brown
All right. The Police Fund is subsidised from the Exchequer. We have got several kinds of pension schemes to consider here, and that is why I am concerned about the possible impact of this Bill on them. For example, there is the teachers' fund, into which the employee and the local authority both pay. There is the general run of Civil Service pensions which are not contributory at all, but where the individual by right is entitled to a pension of so much in respect of each completed years' service. In my opinion, if I, as a civil servant, with a contract with the State which gives me such and such pension in respect of such and such a length of service, desire also as a citizen to be a full contributor to the National Insurance scheme and to whatever benefits I am entitled to under that, I ought to have the right to benefits from both.
§ Mr. Brown
I moved away only because I thought the right hon. Gentleman wanted to get in. I was going on to say that, if that is the impact on a scheme which is wholly non-contributory, then we have schemes which are half contributory by employers and employed and finally we have the unestablished man who has no pension at all. All that I am arguing is that we have to consider here what is to be the impact on all that area of superannuation schemes affecting 2,000,000 people—if we pass this thing without getting an assurance about where the Government stand. There have been no negotiations between the Police and the right hon. Gentleman on this issue. So far as I know, the negotiations between the teachers and the Ministry of Education are not complete. So far as I know the negotiations between the Staff Side of the Whitley Council for the Civil Service and the Government are not complete. I am strongly opposed to committing ourselves to steps here which can have a profound, but as yet unascertainable, impact upon a vastly larger number of people than are immediately affected by the Bill.
I turn to the proposed regulations. I had hoped very much that the present Home Secretary would have been an improvement on his predecessors in the whole question of looking after the Police.
§ Mr. Brown
It would be difficult not to be, but he is not nearly as big an improvement on his predecessor as I had hoped he would be. When one looks at the figures one cannot feel anything but contempt for the kind of provision that we make for the retired policeman and, above all, for his widow and other dependants. The present provision for the widow of a chief officer is £50 per annum; for an officer, £40 per annum; for a sergeant and a constable £30 per annum. It is true that there have been some increases by the provisions of the miserably inadequate Pensions (Increases) Acts, 1946 and 1947. But can we feel proud of that amount of provision for the widows and dependants of men whose 2101 occupation is extremely unpleasant even when—and it very often is—it is not extremely dangerous?
I was hoping that if we were to have a Bill dealing with Police pensions, it would be a Bill conceived in the spirit of humanity, if not of generosity; that it would be a Bill which would do something for the present widows and children, as well as for those who are to become widows hereafter and their children; and that it would once for all have put the question of making pension provision for the Police upon a basis which all of us could regard as being, if not generous, at least reasonably just. I do not find that to be true of this Bill. I do not think it ever will be true until we have proper machinery for negotiation and arbitration in the Police service. The Police Council is a nominated body and not a representative body. I think that, whatever we do, we ought to put the essentials, at any rate, into the Bill, and not leave them to regulations to be made later on. In short, I regard this Bill as a profoundly disappointing Bill in content and in method, and I hope that, when we come to the Committee stage, it will be radically altered in many respects.
§ 2.14 p.m.
§ Major Bruce (Portsmouth, North)
Upon the majority of subjects which we discuss in this House we can usually avail ourselves of the services of, at any rate, one or two hon. Members serving in the occupations involved. Owing, of course, to the peculiar conditions and functions of the Police we have not at the moment, and are unlikely to have, serving policemen here among us. Therefore, I would submit that, when we come to a Bill of this kind, it is wise that we do give extra care in studying the provision proposed for the benefit of our Police Force. We have, probably, the most unobtrusive and most efficient Police forces in the world; but the fact that the policemen themselves are unobtrusive leads us frequently—not only we who are here but the public generally—to lose sight of some of the policemen's problems.
I should like to think that the present Bill was conceived, first of all, as an act of elementary justice towards the policemen or their dependants; and, secondly, I should like to see it in the setting of part of the effort I am quite sure the 2102 Home Secretary must make—or must wish to make—to increase the numbers at present in the Police Force. Indeed, at the present time the matter of numbers is a very great problem; and the pensions which are being granted under this Bill, and the conditions on which they are granted, are, of course, part of the conditions of service which attract or which repel people from joining the Police Force. I do not want to weary the House with a lot of statistics, but I think it should be realised that the Police forces in Great Britain at the present time are grossly under-established, and that, therefore, a very heavy burden is thrown on those who are now serving.
In an answer to a Question of mine last September, I was told that the recently authorised establishment of the Police Force in England and Wales was 66,935, whereas the actual strength was 54,324, which was a deficit at that time of 12,611. Similar figures could be given in respect of the female members of the forces. In the annual report of the Inspectors of the Constabulary considerable concern was expressed not only at the failure of efforts at recruitment but also at the number of people who were retiring from the forces prior to qualifying for pension. In page 9 of the report—and I commend it to the Committee—they say:It is worthy of note, that although the aggregate of the numbers involved are not heavy, Chief Constables have expressed their concern at the number of men who have voluntarily resigned from the forces before becoming entitled to any pensionThe Home Secretary, himself, when he was answering a Question in October last, said of the resignations since January, 1946, which amounted to 11,400, that 25 per cent. of the men concerned had less than 15 years' service. Therefore, it is quite clear, at any rate, in the eyes of the serving members of the Police forces, that something fairly serious must be wrong with the conditions of service. Whether or not they are right in this is something which Parliament will have to decide. If I were to dilate on the conditions of pay and service in the Police forces you would, Sir, very properly rule me out of Order; but I would submit that one has to consider the pension provisions of this Bill in that setting. I very rarely agree with the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), but I must say that 2103 this morning I did find myself in a very considerable measure of agreement with him.
This is an enabling Bill. It is not a Bill setting forth in any detail the various conditions under which pensions should be granted; nor does it settle the actual amounts which will be granted. I am not an expert on this matter, but I am told that in many ways the Police Pensions Act, 1921, did not serve too badly. At any rate it gave some feeling of stability to members of the Police force, who came to look upon an Act of Parliament as something which could be shaken only by an amending Act. But this is a very short Bill which, although repealing the substance of the 1921 Act, leaves what I consider a wholly disproportionate amount of substantive and unchanging conditions to be dealt with by regulation. I can sympathise with any Home Secretary who says, "Well, owing to the variation in the cost of living, and other factors which vary during the passage of time, I should be allowed to maintain a certain tolerance in the regulations." But I should have thought the conditions tinder which pensions should be granted were of a more enduring kind, and might have been put into the Bill itself. I hope the Home Secretary will not regard with disfavour endeavours by hon. Members in all parts of the House to seek to incorporate into the Bill during Committee, possibly by the introduction of new Clauses, substantive conditions which should govern the granting of pensions to the Police force.
I turn to the draft regulations, which we are bound to do because so many of the conditions are not in the Bill. One of the first things to be noticed has already been touched on by the hon. Member for Rugby, namely, that widows who are now receiving pensions, and will qualify for pensions prior to the date when the regulations come into force, are not affected by this Bill. One of the defects of the 1921 Act—and it was pointed out by those hon. Members who sat in this House a long time ago—was that it left the 1918 class of widows cornplc3tely out of the pension scheme. The number of those widowed before 1918 and now alive is not very many; and those who are alive will not, with a normal expectation of life, have very much longer to live. Surely, it would have been an 2104 act of elementary social justice, even at this late stage, to have made some provision for those widows who are not covered under the 1921 Act, and who, when they have fallen upon bad times, have had to go on public assistance. I am very sensible of the fact that, owing to the recent passage through this House of the Public Assistance Bill, it will now be possible for those falling on evil times to obtain what many hon. Members consider their due in a rather less distasteful manner; in fact, in a much more humane fashion. However, in view of the fact that the number of widows is so small, I should have thought that it would have been possible to make some provision.
The class with which I have been dealing is the pre-1918 class. There is also the class of widows who are in receipt of pensions now, or who will qualify for pensions prior to the appointed day. Here again, I should have thought it would have been possible to make rather more substantial increases in the pensions now being paid. I appear to be supporting the hon. Member for Rugby quite considerably this afternoon. I do not think any hon. Member—especially those who have had the opportunity of studying the various price indices and the Statistical Digest for the current month—can consider that the pension increase awards under the 1946 and 1947 Acts are adequate in all the circumstances. I hope the Home Secretary will see fit to reconsider this.
I now refer to the question of forfeiture of pensions in the regulations. This, of course, raises a great question of principle, and one which it is difficult to resolve. I agree immediately with the hon. Member for Rugby that normally a person who works for a pension, and who pays for it in part, on becoming entitled to it by the passage of time, should be so entitled as an inalienable right. That is the normal position which I should take up; and when the Under-Secretary replies I should like to hear exactly what are the reasons for laying down conditions under which there can be a forfeiture of pension.
It may be said—and indeed the Home Secretary gave some hint of it in the course of an exchange with the hon. Member for Rugby—that they are receiving a pension, not because they have earned it or have 2105 paid towards it, but only because it is under the scheme. That may very well be so; but it is equally true to say that the reason why the present rates of pay in the Police Force are rather less than those in outside industry and other branches of life is precisely because the policeman agrees, as a condition of service, to abate part of his present entitlement of wage, and to compound it into the pension he will receive later. Unless there were very strong reasons against it, I should have thought that a policeman on retiring from the force, after shaking the dust of the police station from his feet and becoming an ordinary citizen, should, as an inalienable right, be entitled to anything he has earned and paid for.
What do we find? Under paragraph 13 of the White Paper, issued as an intimation of the regulations the Home Secretary proposes to institute:The police authority to have power, at their discretion, to withdraw a pension, wholly or in part, either permanently or temporarily, where the person to whom the award would otherwise be due:(i) is convicted of any offence and is sentenced to imprisonment for a term exceeding three months.There are various other conditions, to which I shall refer before I conclude. Suppose a person who has been employed in the public service, receiving a smaller wage than that received in industry, who has paid towards a pension and has received it; and suppose after such period of commendable rectitude, he suddenly, for no explicable reason, departs from the straight and narrow—possibly because he may have some knowledge as to the efficiency or otherwise of the methods of detection—is caught, sentenced by a court and awarded punishment. Why should he be subject to the additional punishment of the pension he has in part earned, and has in part paid for, being taken wholly or partly from him? I realise that the most obvious answer is that it is in the interests of the efficiency of our Police Force that those who have had the honour—and it is an honour—of serving in it, should at all times in their subsequent private life preserve such a high standard of behaviour as will reflect credit not only upon the general body of citizens which they have joined, but also on the force which they have left. I should like to hear the Parliamentary Secretary develop the Home Office view on that point.
2106 There is another condition under which a pension may be forfeited, which I regard as slightly sinister, and that is the condition contained in paragraph 13 (iii), which lays down that a pension can also be forfeited if the person to whom the award has been made:Supplies to any person or publishes in any manner which the police authority considers to be discreditable or improper any information which the person may have obtained in the course of employment in the police.The obvious state of affairs that this is designed to cover is the ex-police officer, or ex-constable, making improper use of information he has obtained about individuals during the course of his service in the Force. I would point out that it is laid down here, as in the Police Pensions Act, 1921, that,in any manner which the police authority consider to be discreditable or improper,there is a right of appeal to quarter sessions; in this case there is also a right of appeal to the High Court on any question of law. But, if the regulations are drafted in almost precisely the same form as this White Paper, all that has to be shown before any court—and perhaps any hon. Member who has more experience of the law than myself will help me here—and all that has to be proved on the police side, is that the police themselves consider it to be discreditable or improper. No question as to whether a particular action was improper or not will become the subject of discussion at quarter sessions, or even in the High Court. I think that many Members will want the Home Secretary to consider this again, otherwise many of us may seek, if we can obtain the necessary legal advice, to try our hands at drafting the Clause for ourselves for consideration on a later stage.
It is necessary to point out that, as at present drafted, these regulations can be subject to the greatest abuse. It may be that a police officer, in the course of his service in the Force, finds out something about the organisation of the local force, or of the larger force, about which he considers the general body of citizens, or his Member of Parliament, ought to know. It might involve the past conduct in certain organisational matters of the officers of that Force. Clearly, these officers, or the other people in that Force who might be affected by a disclosure of information of that kind, 2107 would obviously consider such disclosure to be discreditable or improper. If the right of forfeiture must remain, which I seriously contest, it should be so circumscribed as to make the meaning absolutely clear. Moreover, it should be put in the Bill itself, and not left to regulations.
I am not one of those who are convinced always of the efficacy of appeals to quarter sessions and to the High Court. Appeals to the High Court can often be a two-edged weapon, because if the employee in the Force is given the right to appeal, the same right must also be given to the Minister, and the Minister versus the individual in a High Court might conceivably present a balance of power which the majority of us might consider, under our present legal system, to be weighted in his favour. I should like the Home Secretary to consider whether it would not be possible for appeals on questions of forfeiture to be made finally to the Home Secretary himself. With the Home Secretary being responsible to Parliament, it would enable Members of the House of Commons to query his actions, as and when any conceivably injustice might arise.
My final point concerns the paragraph entitled "Infirmity due to Misconduct." It is stated here that:Where a person retires from a police force on account of infirmity of mind or body and the police authority are satisfied that he has brought about or contributed to the infirmity by his own fault or vicious habits, the police authority to have power, at their discretion, to reduce the amount of any award by an amount not exceeding one-half.I very much query this right. I have not seen this right introduced in respect of either the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, or, indeed, in the case of any other service. I should very much like the Parliamentary Secretary to give some justification for the inclusion of what, on the face of it, appears to be an entirely arbitrary provision. The trouble is that in many ways the Police Force is regarded by the Home Secretary as an armed force. When the Home Office wish to refuse to make any concession, they invariably apply the analogy of the Armed Forces—the police force is not regarded as an ordinary body of citizens, but as a body which is more analogous to the Army. On the other hand, when one seeks to obtain similar conditions to those which obtain 2108 in the Army, one finds that the police tend to become ordinary citizens.
I will give one example of that. Special pensions on account of injury were awarded under the Police Pensions Act, 1921, and it is proposed to continue them under these regulations. If one is injured in the Army, whether it is accidentally or by the enemy, then, according to the extent of the disability, there is entitlement to a pension. Under this Bill, we find that a distinction is made between an accidental injury incurred by the policeman in the course of his duty, and an injury brought upon him by an action of a felon or by someone he has tried to apprehend. I am aware that the Police Federation have brought this to the notice of my right hon. Friend, and that a compromise was suggested which was that instead of having a higher rate for injuries incurred by a policeman, no doubt by some action on the part of a third party, and a lower rate for a policeman slipping on the proverbial banana skin and breaking his leg, there should be an intermediate rate to cover both cases.
I am advised—I put forward the view with all humility because I am not an expert in these matters—that the existing special pensions are so much on the low side that to bring them down to a mean would be unjust. If the Under-Secretary will consider giving the House reasons why it is not possible to bring the accidental rate up to the non-accidental rate, I shall be very grateful.
It would be churlish, after having made a series of criticisms, if one were not to thank the Home Secretary for having made valued concessions in the Bill, and no doubt in the regulations which are to follow it. There are many improvements, but I am sure the Under-Secretary would be the last to insist that the Bill is perfect. I hope that he and his right hon. Friend will not take it amiss if hon. Members in all parts of the House seek to do their best in Committee to improve the Bill.
§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
I hope that it will not be thought to come from me in any niggardly spirit if I say that I feel increasing dissatisfaction with this kind of legislation, which puts all of us in a dilemma. I recognise that the Bill is an effort towards the improvement 2109 of conditions, in the matter with which it deals, but it does it in an unsatisfactory way, being merely a framework which leaves the Department of State to do as it wishes by regulations within that framework. The dilemma is this: we should like, on the one hand, to see the Bill withdrawn and substituted by one which would deal with the merits and substance of the scheme, while, on the other hand, we do not want to vote against a Bill, which is at least intended to improve the pensions of the Police.
It is right to make it clear, as the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) emphasised, that no member of the Police has any right to pension at all, as the Bill is drawn. There is nothing to compel the Home Secretary to make any regulations, and there is very little about what he shall put in those regulations. There is no legal entitlement to pension, nothing about length of service or contributions by anyone. There are two things which should certainly be inserted in the Bill, and on which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept Amendments in Committee, namely, a definition of the circumstances in which a member of a Police force will lose or forfeit his pension, and a right of appeal when there is a dispute about his pension. I will not go so far as to say that there are no circumstances in which a member of a Police force should forfeit his right to pension, but if a question of forfeiture arises, the circumstances in which it should occur, should be exactly defined, and should not be left to the discretion of anyone. Such definition of the circumstances should be set out in the Bill itself.
The right of appeal should also be contained in the Bill. The House will be wrong to leave it to the discretion of the Home Secretary or of any other Minister whether there should be a right of appeal, especially when the regulations are to be of such a character that they can only be annulled, after they have been laid before Parliament, by negative Resolution. The hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) was correct when he said that in many cases in the proposed regulations where a Police authority have the right to declare a pension forfeited, there is no appeal at all as to the substance of the case. In paragraphs 12 and 13 of the White Paper, certain circumstances are stated in which a Police authority may order reduction or 2110 forfeiture of the amount of a pension, at their discretion. Paragraph 14 expressly says:No appeal to lie against the exercise of any discretion.I think it entirely wrong that a member of a Police Force should be subject to the exercise of discretion in that manner. By the time a dispute about pension arises a man is, more often than not, at a late stage in life. Police work has been his life work, and he has paid the contributions. There is all the more danger because of the vagueness of the words which are used as enabling a police authority to order forfeiture:Discreditable or improper, in the opinion of the police authority. …It is wrong that there should be no appeal against the way in which a Police authority exercises its discretion against a member of the Force. One strong reason why it is necessary that guidance relating to forfeiture or reduction of pension should be put into the Bill and stated with precision was mentioned by the hon. Member for Rugby, namely, that there is no machinery in the Police Force in the shape of a democratically elected body which can negotiate on these matters. The police have no trade union or representative of the men such as exists in other industries. It is a great pity that that concession has not been made to the Police Force. I have more than once discussed with members of the Police Force in various parts of the country their conditions of service. I hope it will not be considered improper for them to discuss their conditions of service with Members of Parliament. As the conditions for forfeiture of pension stand, a Police authority may think it is improper for members of the Force to give information to a Member of Parliament. I have often noticed—
§ Mr. Roberts
I appreciate the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman. The point I was making is that it should be safeguarded as a matter of statutory right and not be left to the discretion of a particular Home Secretary.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
May I remind the Home Secretary that we have had experience of Police Forces being prevented from holding meetings to discuss their own conditions among themselves—much less with a Member of Parliament—and that it is all part of the chronic chaos which exists?
§ Mr. Roberts
These matters should be safeguarded by statutes and not rest on the good will of Ministers. I was about to say that I have often noticed that, cheerful, valorous and bearing their arduous duties with fortitude, as are our policemen, there is often behind all this a certain sense of frustration, because of lack of machinery for discussion of grievances. The setting up of machinery such as the hon. Member for Rugby has so often advocated would go a long way to dispel that sense of frustration, and would be a very distinct contribution towards the recruiting of able, intelligent and honest men for the Police Force. There is no branch of the public service and no aspect of the activities of democracy, particularly at this time, in which we have more need of outstanding, upright and able men, than in our Police Force.
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston upon Thames)
The House must admit that the Home Secretary, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, did make out a case for a new Police Pensions Bill. It is obvious that steps must be taken, among other things, to integrate this pensions scheme with our national security legislation. I was much more impressed by the right hon. Gentleman's argument on that part of his speech than by the attack made upon him by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), but I am sure that Members on both sides were rather shocked at what the right hon. Gentleman said on the subject of pensions for police widows. The right hon. Gentleman told us that for three years from 5th July next—which is nearly three and a half years from now 2112 —it is proposed that the level of pensions for widows of policemen in the lowest category shall remain at a nominal £30, going up, possibly, to £42 per annum. In view of the present cost of living that is a pitiful pension; it is extremely regrettable that for three years that appalling level of penury is to be permitted for the widows of these gallant men.
The right hon. Gentleman hinted that the reason for this was failure to obtain agreement on the terms of contribution with the Police Federation. If that is so, it is so, but that does not end the matter. This House has some responsibility, and it is unthinkable that we should consent, whatever the reasons, to allow this very unfortunate state of affairs to continue for another three and a half years. The right hon. Gentleman, having gone as far as he did in giving reasons, should, I think, go a little further, and tell us precisely what the point of disagreement was, what was the amount of difference between his attitude and that of those with whom he negotiated. If the point of difference was small, I am sure that Members of all parties would be prepared to urge him to go a little further to meet this crying need.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Then there is, presumably, the question of a certain contribution from the public funds. I do not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman can tell us now what the amount involved would be, but perhaps the Under-Secretary can obtain the information and let us know when he replies. We should know what is the financial difference which prevents action being taken to remedy this great wrong. I am glad that the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) brought up the case of the pre-1918 widows. There are very few, and I should have thought that with a minimum expenditure from public funds something might have been incorporated in the Bill to help this small and extremely unfortunate class of people. I hope it is not too late for the Home Office to reconsider their attitude on this aspect of the matter.
The point on which Members on all sides, including the Casabianca of the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) seemed 2113 to be agreed, was that the method of dealing with Police pensions which the Bill incorporates is thoroughly bad in itself, and a most damaging and dangerous precedent for the future. The Police Pensions Act of 1921 provided a statutory basis, a charter on which those entering the Police Force could rely. After all, we are legislating for a long time for the people whom we are hoping to induce to enter into the Police Force today for perhaps 35 years of service. It seems right to give those people the sense of security which a statute gives, and which a regulation that may be altered at the whim of a Minister of the Crown emphatically does not give. It seems a thoroughly retrograde step to pass from the statutory basis of the 1921 Act to the basis of regulation under which it is now proposed to operate.
I agree with the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) that this is a most dangerous precedent. If this is done for the Police Force, whose independence of the Executive Government is perhaps more important than that of any other branch of Government service, it is a precedent for doing it for every other form of national service, and it seems a wholly wrong and dangerous method of setting about it. The right hon. Gentleman said power was taken to prescribe exact details by regulation. If that were the whole truth of the matter, there could not be much objection, but if hon. Members will look at Subsection 1 (1) they will see that the regulatory power is to prescribe:as to the pensions which are to be paid and in respect of members of police forces, whether as of right or otherwise; and (b) as to the contributions . … and (c) as to times and circumstances.Those are not precise details, those are fundamental questions. The habitual argument in favour of proceeding by regulation is that it gives flexibility but, surely when you are establishing the legal basis of a great national service, flexibility is precisely what you do not want. You want conditions which can only be altered with some difficulty, so that those who go into that service shall know that they have stable and secure rights which can only be altered by the express will of Parliament.
The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to circulate in the White 2114 Paper his intentions, but the intentions of a Minister are transient and fragile things. Ministers themselves are transient and fragile, and what a Minister intends or, indeed, who is to be a Minister, can vary as the months pass. It is really not good enough to expect men to go into our at present under-manned Police Force with the knowledge that their vital pension rights are left almost, if not quite, at the unfettered discretion of a Minister of the Crown. Who, joining the Police Force today with a prospect of 35 years' service, can possibly speculate as to who will occupy the place of the right hon. Gentleman in the 35 years immediately ahead? Who can speculate as to the political colour, the personal competence, or the particular views of the innumerable occupants of that great office who will pass in succession during 35 years? Yet every one of those persons is to be entitled by these regulations to alter rights already earned and acquired by loyal service in the Police during those years.
Quite frankly it is not good enough, and the habitual argument of flexibility is in itself the most damning argument against regulations because this is not a matter in which flexibility is desirable. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out the difficulty of laying down all these provisions in detail in the Bill, but he has laid down in great detail in the White Paper what he intends to do. I shall be grateful if the Under-Secretary can tell me why it was not possible to follow the procedure of the 1921 Act and incorporate as a Schedule the proposed conditions? If it is possible to draft the conditions in the White Paper, why cannot that be done? What insuperable objection is there to that?
Finally, as to Parliamentary control, if there is any matter upon which it is desirable that Parliamentary control should be effective, it surely is this subject. Yet we are being fobbed off with the highly illusory safeguard of the procedure by negative Resolution, which means that if the House desires to discuss the matter, it has to do it upon a "take it or leave it" basis. The very fact that the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) found it necessary to go into the details of the White Paper and, in particular, paragraphs 12 and 13, shows that this is a matter upon which the House should be allowed to consider Amendments. Yet 2115 under the negative Resolution procedure there is not the slightest chance of amending one word. That is quite wrong. If the right hon. Gentleman had followed the suggestion I have just made of scheduling the conditions in the Bill, it would have been possible for hon. Members interested to put down Amendments to clear up the doubtful points. As it is, hon. Members will be denied any possibility of effecting the slightest Amendment, and they will be faced with the alternative of rejecting a set of regulations, much of which may be excellent, because they happen to dislike certain points.
It would have been more honest for the Government to abandon the farce that there is any effective Parliamentary control obtained by this method. The safeguard is illusory, the possibilities of effecting amendment negligible, and the least that could have been done would be to bring these regulations before the House in a manner in which Amendments could be moved against them. There is also the fact that the fundamental basis of security of the police, the appeal to the courts, is left dependent upon the whim of the right hon. Gentleman. He has said he will allow that appeal, but it will be open under this Bill for any of his successors to eliminate that right altogether simply by amending the regulations. I am not suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman would desire in any way to limit the right of access to the courts, but there are other right hon. Gentlemen in the present Government, as there may be in future Governments, who are not over-enthusiastic about access to the King's courts, and it is imaginable that some right hon. Gentlemen of that frame of mind might occupy the right hon. Gentleman's place and would be perfectly within their rights under this Bill if they swept this right out of the regulations and removed it from the police.
I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the position. He knows better than anybody else in this House how serious is the position as regards police recruitment. He must know that one of the most important factors in any recruitment drive is the knowledge of the pension conditions which can be obtained at the end of service, and not only as to the precise conditions themselves but, 2116 above all, as to the certainty of obtaining them and the security behind them. Would he not be serving a good purpose in supporting that recruitment of the Police Force, which he knows to be necessary, were he to say even now that he appreciates that at any rate the major matters concerned—the appeal to the courts, and so on—should be incorporated at a later stage in the Bill, and the regulatory power maintained merely to enable him to fill up the details? If the right hon. Gentleman would do that, he would be serving a good purpose so far as the police are concerned and, if he will allow me to say so, would be increasing his own reputation as a good House of Commons man.
§ 3.5 p.m.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
I have learned a great deal from this discussion. I do not agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) that one of the primary things which are important to the ordinary man-in-the-street is what he is going to get when he is an old man. To most people the chief thing is what they are likely to get during the ordinary course of their working lives.
Indications have been put forward that policemen are not being remunerated to the extent to which they should be, but I think it is correct to say that in the last 12 months they have received much higher remuneration than before. I have heard nothing to lead me to believe that they are feeling sorely about the present position. I notice in the Memorandum to the Bill that Parliament pays half the expenses relative to all the benefits that ensue. Therefore, Parliament has a very important responsibility. When I first read the Bill, I did not think there was much to discuss in it, but it has been mentioned that the Police Council is a nominated body.
§ Mr. McKay
When I first looked at the Bill, I thought that, on the face of it, it gave a fairly sound basis of representation, but, after all, there is a weakness attaching to the situation. The Home Secretary can consult with the Police Council, but our experience in life is that while one can consult, on many occasions one does not arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. Where a dispute arises and the Police Council, representative of the men, after consultation on important matters such as general wage conditions, differ strongly from the Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman has to take individual responsibility for settling the dispute. That is a weakness. The Home Secretary has too much responsibility in important matters where the Police Council and he cannot come to some reasonable terms.
Although it may be suggested that matters of that character should go to court, I do not regard that method as always being satisfactory. As I get on in life, and see this country developing into big organisations representing big bodies of men, I turn largely to the view that there should be a forced stage of arbitration on all matters of importance. I think that should apply here, and that when the Police Council and the Home Secretary cannot come to satisfactory terms of agreement, they ought to have the power to call in some outside body to decide the issue, and so satisfy those concerned—the policemen particularly—that they have had a fair crack of the whip.
The question of forfeiture, and the position that arises when some ex-policeman has perhaps broken the law and got himself into a position which is not satisfactory, taken in conjunction with the fact that he was a policeman, has been particularly mentioned in the discussion. The arguments which have been put forward on this point have been strong ones and in Committee these points should be considered. After all is said and done, whatever pensions or other benefits there may be, the men themselves are paying into a fund from which these benefits arise. A man can have been in the Police Force for a long number of years—20 or 25 years—and he may then commit some crime or do something which, in the opinion of the Home Secretary, is of such 2118 a character that he should be dismissed the Force and forfeit his pension. That should be reconsidered. It can be said that he has at least earned something, and the longer he has been in the Police Force the more he has paid in contributions towards a future pension. While it may be true that he has not conducted himself in the way he ought to have done in order to get a full pension, he has contributed money out of his earnings, and he should at least get a proportion, in accordance with the time he has been in the force or in accordance with the contributions he has himself paid.
The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) began his speech in a way that rather implied that he was about to tell us something very remarkable, and point out some particular principle in the Bill which would apply to about two million people. I have always looked upon the hon. Member as an acutely intelligent man, but he occupied a long time today and I think he was using his intelligence just to occupy the attention of the House for as long as possible. He gave the example of a man who was entitled to a particular pension and said that there was something embodied in this Bill that was likely to endanger it. It was all moonshine, and I think he knew it was moonshine, and still he persisted in that particular matter. Whatever pension such a man is entitled to, if there is a change in conditions any new member knows that he has to submit to the conditions in which he joins the Police Force. There was nothing in the hon. Member's argument.
I do not think much more of importance arises out of the discussion. The point is that a new condition has arisen and some change has to take place to meet that new condition, particularly for the new recruit to the Police Force. This Bill is brought forward to try to meet those new conditions and to fit in existing provisions with the National Insurance Scheme. The question of the widow's pension was dealt with by one hon. Member. I think there is a precedent which should encourage the Home Secretary to consider the advisability of reviewing these old cases where widows receive very small pensions, but the claim still remains. There was a similar condition existing under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. There were old 2119 pensions cases of people who had been injured many years ago and who, under the old Acts, had a very small income. It was recognised that in modern conditions they were not being treated in anything like a reasonable way. Under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, it was decided that such people should receive at least another 20s. under the new scheme. I think that is something to keep in view.
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Gage (Belfast, South)
I notice that Clause 6 (3) of this Bill states:This Act shall not extend to Northern Ireland;It goes on to state:provided that this subsection shall not be construed as preventing any regulations such as are referred to in subsection (4) of section one of this Act from requiring payments to be made to a person or into a fund in Northern Ireland.I am anxious to know from the Home Secretary, or whoever is to reply, whether these regulations are designed to prevent or alleviate the anomalous situation that has arisen about the pensions of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who have been employed by this Government overseas, either with the Control Commission, or other places abroad. It is a point of some importance. There are, no doubt, substantial reasons why this Bill should not apply in its entirety to Northern Ireland, but I can best illustrate my point by referring to a case that occurred.
A member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary volunteered for service with the Control Commission, and was accepted. His position in regard to his pension was that he was to retire after 25 years service on a half pay pension, and at the end of 30 years service on two-thirds pension. He served for a time with members of the Police forces of England and Scotland until he, among others, was declared redundant. He was to receive a Control Commission pension in addition to his ordinary pension, as were the English and Welsh police. It was discovered, however, that because the Overseas Police Force Act did not apply to Northern Ireland he alone, of all those people declared redundant, could not receive his pension. I am anxious to know whether that has been foreseen in this Bill and whether this Clause is designed to prevent that from occurring in the future. When the Royal 2120 Ulster Constabulary serve in Ulster they are away from the Police Force here and the difference between their pensions conditions does not cause so much concern. But when they are serving together with members of other Police forces in Germany, Greece and other places, as has happened since the end of the war and are declared redundant, they find they cannot receive a pension as members of other forces do because either one or another Act does not apply in Northern Ireland.
I hope I shall be told that that position is to be rectified, and that these regulations, about which at present we have no knowledge, are designed to do away with that kind of thing. It is a matter which has caused the greatest concern among members of this admirable force—who have been of the greatest use to the Government in service overseas. It is wrong that they should find that they are deprived of their pensions, because this Bill does not extend to Northern Ireland.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Squadron-Leader Sir Gifford Fox (Henley)
I wish to make an appeal to the Home Secretary to see whether he cannot try to come to agreement with the Police Federation on the question of widows' pensions. When the Minister replies, I hope that we shall be told what would be the extra annual cost to the Treasury if the difference which divides the two parties could be bridged. Perhaps one of the ways in which a compromise might be reached lies in the fact that when police were recruited they were told that they would have free medical and dental service. Under the National Insurance scheme they will now have to pay for these services. I do not know what the actuarial value of the benefits used to be, but that might be a bridge which would help to restart negotiations on this point.
The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) was right when he suggested that new entrants into the Police Force should have the choice of paying the extra shilling a week and benefiting under the National Insurance Scheme in addition to drawing their Police pension. The real trouble is that the Police are so badly paid that we cannot attract new entrants. In the past the attraction was that there was security for them when they left the Force. A great part of that attraction has gone, because there is 2121 social security for everyone at the moment. If the Police were paid more, they would be able to afford these extra contributions without suffering so heavy a burden.
The only way in which the Home Secretary can solve this problem of recruiting is by making the conditions of service more attractive. I think that nearly every policeman in the land appreciates what the right hon. Gentleman has done for him. He has been a very sympathetic Home Secretary. He has listened to their arguments, and I am sure that he has done all he can to help. I suspect that this is not his own Bill. The hon. Member for Rugby was probably right when he said that it was a Treasury manoeuvre. When we come to the Committee stage, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to listen to our arguments and consider our Amendments.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Chamberlain (Norwood)
I only want to touch on a very limited field. I approached this Bill having in mind certain groups of people whose interests I wanted to watch. I must confess that when I opened the Bill and found that it was really no more than a skeleton and that I had to go elsewhere to find the flesh and blood, I was rather taken aback. In passing, I re-echo and reinforce the apprehension and anxiety which has been expressed, I think sincerely, in all quarters of the House at the fact that under the new arrangement everything seems to be left to regulation in a manner quite different from the 1921 Act. Although that may conduce to flexibility—undoubtedly it has certain advantages from that point of view—it is an extremely dangerous precedent to set. I join other hon. Members in the appeal to the Home Secretary to reconsider this matter at least to the extent of putting into the Bill the essential principles—the matter of entitlement, right of appeal, and items of that kind. I think it is a most important matter and, if we let it go, there will be a precedent which will be followed in a great number of fields.
There are two other points with which I would like to deal. The first is the question of the widows who are on the minimum basic amount of £30. It has already been dealt with in many quarters 2122 and the Home Secretary has placed elsewhere the blame for the fact that nothing has been done about it. It may be that he has a certain amount of justification, but I feel it is not enough simply to place the blame elsewhere. He, as Home Secretary, and still more we, as Parliament, must accept a certain measure of responsibility—indeed, we must accept the whole responsibility in this matter—because I think it is not right even on the basis of that argument that these widows should be left even for a few years with only £30, which was brought up to £42 under the Pensions Increase Act, 1947. That means 16s. 2d. a week, and everybody knows it is fantastic to expect a widow to live on 16s. 2d. a week. In many cases, she has no addition to that amount and it will compare very unfavourably with the 26s. to which other widows will be entitled. I think the Home Secretary will have to tackle this thing again in some way and will have to unravel it; he will have to use his powers, and Parliament must use their powers if necessary, in this matter.
My second point is one on which I do not think anyone has touched, although it is quite important because it affects a group of serving police constables at the present time. It affects constables serving who were appointed before 1921. If they have not yet attained to the level in which they can claim two-thirds of their income for pension purposes it appears, by the draft regulation as set out, that they will not now be able to do so. I refer to draft Regulation 5C; retirement is to be compulsory for sergeants and constables attaining the age of 55. Under the 1921 Act there was this provision for compulsory retirement at 55, but there was also a proviso added in Section 29 (1, b) of that Act which made it possible, in spite of the age limit, for constables to continue until they had attained the length of service which would give them the two-thirds pension. As I see it, the 1921 Act has for practical purposes been swept away and, therefore, we are left with this Regulation 5C which gives compulsory retirement but which does not give that degree of elasticity in regard to the attainment of two-thirds pension or 30 years' service. I think that should be looked at again because it seems an obvious mistake.
That is all I wanted to say, except to reiterate that I hope the Home Secretary 2123 will put into the four corners of the Bill certain things which so many of us feel to be essential and which I certainly feel are essential, if the public and the force are to retain full confidence in each other.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Younger)
We have had a very interesting Debate, which has raised a number of important questions of principle and, in addition, many points which Members will, I think, agree are Committee points. In the time at my disposal, I do not think I shall be able to deal with everything which has been discussed. On the whole, I think it fair to say that the criticism of this Bill has been not so much of what it is as of what it is not. To hear the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), it might be thought that the scope and implications of the Bill were very much wider than I believe them to be. The hon. Member raised points about all sorts of other public servants and, with others, referred to the general question of conditions and rates of pay and pension in the Police Force, as they relate to the modern cost of living and recruitment. I am making no complaint about those matters having been raised but, at the same time, I do not think that they could properly be expected to be dealt with in this Bill.
It is true that the conditions enjoyed by the Police have changed greatly in their relationship to the conditions enjoyed by other people, partly because of the changes in wage levels, and so on, and partly because some of the security provisions which used to be peculiar to the Police have become less peculiar to them over the years. Although that is, in every respect, a matter for which we should be glad, it means that certain attractions of the Police Force against other jobs are becoming relatively smaller. The Police Force is short of manpower, and it is possible to say that the rate of recruiting is unsatisfactory. That must be, to some extent, a matter of opinion, but I am informed that the rate of recruiting is a good deal more rapid than it was before the war. That is perhaps not a very fair test in the period immediately after the war, and it is a matter of opinion and argument as to what extent conditions in the Police Force should be such that there should be a rush into it as against many 2124 other important fields of employment. We do need more recruits. It may be that conditions, and the question we are discussing today, play a great part in retarding or increasing the flow of recruits, but we have to realise that the Police cannot, any more than any other section of the community, escape from the fact that there are today many important branches of employment in competition with one another.
Before I leave this question of conditions, I have to say that it is intended to have a review, by an independent committee, of the whole question of Police pay and conditions. It was not thought very useful to start that review too soon after the end of the war; if there were to be a scientific inquiry to lay down conditions which would last for a long time, with only relatively minor alterations over a number of years, it was thought that it would be more useful if that committee started work when we were more nearly into some kind of stable period, when people were back from the Forces, and we were able to foresee more clearly what conditions and the standard of living would be.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
Will there be an announcement in the House about the composition of that committee, before it starts work, so that we can express a view about it if necessary?
§ Mr. Younger
There will undoubtedly be an announcement. I should think there would be an announcement about the membership of the committee.
A good deal of the argument of hon. Members was addressed to the question with which we are all now very familiar in this House—how much should be done by regulation and how much should be put into the Bill? My right hon. Friend said something about that, and I do not know that I can really elaborate it. If I got the sense of the House rightly, it was not suggested—at any rate, not by many hon. Members—that it was necessarily the best method to put the whole of the code into the statute, as was done in the past. What was more generally suggested was, that there should be rather more in the Bill than is proposed at present, and rather less in the regulations.
The hon. Member for Rugby referred to putting fundamentals into the Bill, and 2125 he enumerated one or two fundamentals, such as, for instance, the basis of entitlement to pension. We can certainly look at this in the later stages of the Bill, but I should like now to say that under the old system, under the Act of 1921, when the code was in the Act itself, a number of modifications were found to be desirable upon which, I think, all parties were substantially agreed, but they were never introduced simply because of the rigidity of the system, which required that a separate amending Bill should be introduced to make those small modifications.
I took the trouble to see what one or two of them were. I shall not keep the House by enumerating them. They were mostly relatively small modifications, but some of them related to quite fundamental matters, such as entitlement. I think that when hon. Members come to consider what the division should be between the types of provisions they would like to see in the Bill as being fundamental, and the types they think should be left to regulations, they will find it very difficult to make that particular distinction. Nevertheless, I am quite prepared to say that we will look into this; we have not a closed mind upon the nature of certain particular provisions and particular fundamental rights which could possibly be put into the Bill.
When we have this argument about regulations, which is by now an old favourite in this House, I always think that there is a considerable degree of exaggeration of the dangers. Hon. Members always refer to the possibility that some anti-social Secretary of State will occupy the post now held by my right hon. Friend, and they point out to what extent he would be able to take away the fundamental rights of citizens. I think there is exaggeration, and I think so for this reason, that, after all, if a future Secretary of State had the advantage of a House of Commons so constituted that it would pass regulations abolishing these rights, it is fair to assume that he would also be able to put his will in that respect into operation by other means. The whole of our system is based on the assumption that, where these fundamental rights are concerned, the House of Commons is the guardian of the citizen. There is much less difference between the two procedures in that respect than is sometimes made out in argument.
2126 I do not think I should follow the hon. Member for Rugby very far into his argument about Police representation. He was out of the House, I think, when my right hon. Friend intervened in another hon. Member's speech to point out that it is not fair to say that the Police Council is a nominated body. The suggestion that it was a nominated body was made by the hon. Member for Rugby. My right hon. Friend pointed out that there are certain organisations and categories of persons entitled by statute to be represented on the Council, and that they choose their own representatives. The whole question of the representation of the Police in this matter is rather more controversial than the hon. Member for Rugby might have led us to believe. We know he holds strong opinions on the matter, but it ought not to be assumed by the House that everybody in the Police Force shares his view or feels that the present position is so open to criticism as he suggested to us it is.
Most hon. Members have referred to widows' pensions. My right hon. Friend referred to that in his opening speech, and there is very little more I can add, although I should like to reply to a question asked early on by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston). I hope I understood the question aright. He asked whether the wife of a Police pensioner—that is to say, someone retired from the force and now enjoying the pension—who became widowed after the coming into force of this Bill would come under the new or the old scheme. The answer is that she will come under the new scheme. The question really is whether a particular type of pension is already being paid before the Bill comes into operation. The widow's pension in such a case would not be payable at the time the Bill comes into operation, but would come into existence afterwards. That would be covered by this Bill.
Most hon. Members who referred to the widows were concerned with the problem of which we are all aware, namely, the existing widows—the very small category described as the 1918 widows, and the larger category comprising those already receiving widows' pensions. There is very little I can add, except to say that, so far as the question of discussion with Police representatives is concerned, the matter remains open. I ask hon. Members to bear in mind that although, as 2127 has been pointed out, the Police pensions scheme is heavily subsidised, there is, nevertheless, a considerable element of contribution, and in contributory pensions schemes it is unreasonable to assume that benefits should be altered without some kind of alteration in the contribution.
It is correct to say that in this scheme the proportion in respect of widows which is covered by the Police contribution is smaller than in most similar schemes. The total contribution of the Police to the total cost of the pensions scheme is, I am informed, 5 per cent., and only one-half of 1 per cent. is calculated to relate to widows' pensions. I have no actuarial knowledge of insurance schemes of this [...]ind, but I am informed that that is a low figure, and that it is by no means unreasonable to suggest that if benefits were raised, there should be some adjustment of the contribution, or some compensatory alteration in some other part of the scheme. The actuarial question is one into which at the moment I cannot enter, for I should not be qualified so to do. The further information for which hon. Members have asked can certainly be made available during subsequent stages of the Bill.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
From that, I take it that the Under-Secretary is not yet in a position to answer the question I put as to the cost to public funds of raising the pensions of existing widows during the period of three and a half years till the social insurance benefits come into effect.
§ Mr. Younger
I am sorry to have to say that the hon. Member is perfectly correct, that I am not in a position to give him those figures. We are examining it, and will get the figures, which must be readily available except at such short notice. We will see that those figures are made available to hon. Members during Committee.
Most of the points other than those to which I have already referred related to matters of detail, and were Committee points. I will refer to only one or two of them. I was a little surprised at the heat with which the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) referred to forfeiture. I am not aware—although it may be that in this, too, I am simply ignorant of it—that in 2128 the past hard cases have arisen under the forfeiture provisions. I should not myself have thought it inherently unreasonable that ex-members of a police force who became involved under the heading of any existing provision permitting of forfeiture should, in fact, forfeit their pension. The hon. and gallant Member asked on what principles any such forfeiture could be imposed. I can only repeat that this is a scheme very heavily subsidised by the Government, and that the police are in a somewhat special position, in that they acquire a lot of information in the course of their service which, if I may use the words, is "highly explosive." It is proper that they should have this information as police officers, and that it should be retained within the confidential limits of the service. It is very important, from the point of view of protecting the public, that there should be a sanction to ensure that an ex-police officer does not improperly disclose information which he has acquired during the course of his service.
My right hon. Friend pointed out that we are proposing to remove two provisions in regard to forfeiture, which seem to us to be of a less precise character than those which remain. The first relates to association with thieves and persons of bad character, and the second to refusal to give the Police information and assistance. My right hon. Friend dealt with both these points, and pointed out that these conditions were too vague in character to hold over the head of a retired police officer. I can give an assurance, in regard to the point relating to the publication "in any manner which the Police authority considers to be discreditable or improper," that it is the intention that there shall be a right of appeal in all these cases. We will certainly look at this most carefully to see whether this is open to criticism, and whether there should be some alterations made in this respect.
The hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Gage) referred to the pensions of members of the Northern Ireland Force who have served with the Control Commission. I can only say to him that there is no place in this Bill for dealing with such persons. The responsibility for the conditions of members of the Northern Ireland Force lies with the Northern Ireland Government. I do not think it would be right for us to put into 2129 this Bill some special provision for their serving officers, which the Northern Ireland Government have not thought fit to put into their own code. The Bill does not apply, except for the very limited purpose mentioned in the Bill, to Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Younger
I am afraid that I could not answer that point in detail. With regard to the contributions which we may make to the fund in Northern Ireland, that relates to transfers from one Police Force to the other. The contributions have to be made in respect of those for whom we were responsible when their careers began, and who subsequently transferred. It is to ensure continuity between the Force in this country and the Force in Northern Ireland. There is very little more that I need say. We shall have to look into the question relating to men who joined the Force before 1921. There is every intention of trying to meet the case of the rather small number of persons involved, and I should like an opportunity to deal with that matter at a later stage.
In view of what I have already said, and despite criticisms, particularly those relating to the fact that the new code is to be in regulations and not in the Bill, I think the House has shown that it recognises the Bill as a necessary piece of machinery designed not so much to alter in any major way the existing provision for Police pensions as to adapt the machinery to the situation which will be created by the National Insurance and the industrial Injuries Schemes.
As a purely practical piece of mechanics, something of this kind is necessary. Larger questions of conditions of pay, rates of pension and so on, may perhaps be more suitably left to a Measure of larger scope, if such were to be necessary at some future time. I hope that, with that degree of explanation and assurance on matters which we will be prepared to discuss later in Committee, the House will now agree to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Snow.]