HC Deb 27 February 1948 vol 447 cc2280-312
Mr. Younger

I beg to move, in page 12, line 14, at the end, to insert: 7. The Police (Overseas Service) (Greece) Regulations, 1948. Part II and the Second Schedule. This is a drafting Amendment to put the Police (Overseas Service) (Greece) Regulations on the same footing as those already applying to Germany and Austria. The reason this Amendment has to be inserted at this late stage is that these particular regulations had not been made when the Bill was introduced. The Amendment will have the effect of putting the persons concerned in these different theatres on exactly the same footing.

Amendment agreed to.

11.25 a.m.

Mr. Younger

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

I do not wish to take up much of the time of the House at this stage, but there are a few words which I should say. We have had fairly prolonged and interesting Debates on this Bill. As the House is aware, this is primarily an adapting Bill, designed to adapt the police pensions schemes to the new National Insurance schemes which will be coming into force this year. It is that rather than any major changes in the police pensions system which is the purpose of the Bill. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) and the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) have both given me notice that they are not yet satisfied with the form of this Bill, and that they think, as the hon. Member for Rugby says, that it is only making the best of a bad job.

Neither of them referred to the advantages which there are on the credit side in doing, at any rate, a certain amount of this type of work by regulation. I do not intend to say anything in detail about that, but the House will remember that it was pointed out on Second Reading and on the Committee Stage that there have, in the past, been amendments favourable to the members of the Police Forces, and upon which almost everybody was agreed, but which have hung fire, sometimes for a matter of years, and have not been introduced simply because of the difficulty of finding time for legislation. That difficulty of finding time is one which confronts every Government. I do not think that it is substantially more difficult now than it has been found to be in the past to introduce amending legislation, particularly if it happens to be only on small matters of detail. Therefore, there is something to be said on the credit side, in the interests of the Police Forces themselves, for having an additional degree of flexibility.

Having said that, I would like briefly to recapitulate the guarantees which are now in this Bill. It has changed a good deal since it was first introduced. I am not complaining of that. I think that most of us feel that it is now a better Bill than when it was first introduced. In case there should be any apprehension on the part of anybody because parts of the scheme are still left to regulations, I would point out that there are the following safeguards. Firstly, there is to be consultation with the Police Council; that is to say, the persons concerned with the Police Forces will be fully aware, before the regulations are laid, of what is proposed. They will have the opportunity of discussing them and will have no difficulty in seeing that their views are subsequenty adequately put before this House. Secondly, we have the affirmative Resolution procedure, to which reference has just been made. Thirdly, and this is only a small point, my right hon. Friend agreed to alter the wording in Clause 1 (2), which states that "such regulations shall provide …" for the matters set out and not merely "may" provide.

Then, we have introduced into the statute detailed provisions as to appeal in case of grievance. We have also introduced a new Clause setting out the circumstances in which a pension may be forfeited. It will be within the recollection of the House that the new Clause is more favourable to members of the Police Forces than was the corresponding Clause in the Act of 1921. Next, we have the new Clause to which I need not refer in detail, because we have just discussed it. That gives a further guarantee—

Mr. Grimston

Could the hon. Gentleman confirm that my interpretation, in accepting the new Clause, was correct?

Mr. Younger

Yes, Sir. I am sorry. I should have done that. The new Clause ensures, as I think the hon. Gentleman said, that all members of the forces existing at the time when the first regulations come into force and at the time when any future regulations may come into force, will know that they cannot be compelled to accept new regulations which worsen their position in respect of the matters set out in the new Clause.

The guarantees which I have recapitulated are pretty considerable. Although they do not cover the whole field of detail, as has been the case in past Acts, I submit that they cover the basic elements of the pensions scheme. They should give a complete sense of security to the police. In addition, my right hon. Friend was very glad to have been able to introduce something in Clause 2 which will enable a measure of assistance to be given to existing widows whose unfortunate circumstances, in that they were not able to take advantage of the national insurance scheme, have been well known to everybody in this House.

I would like to mention two small points which my right hon. Friend undertook to look at last week and about which he has not done anything by way of Amendment to the Bill. It was suggested that it would be better that appeals should go to the county court rather than to the court of quarter sessions. My right hon. Friend has ascertained that all sides of the Police Council feel that it would be better that appeal should continue to be to quarter sessions rather than to the county court. Moreover, one of the arguments in favour of the county court was that it already dealt with matters of industrial injuries. That will no longer apply when workmen's compensation gives way to the provisions of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. Therefore, on reflection, my right hon. Friend did not think that it was necessary to introduce any Amendment on that point.

Mr. Speaker

I must point out that this is not in the Bill. On Third Reading we can discuss only what is in the Bill.

Mr. Younger

I wanted, if possible, to explain that my right hon. Friend had given consideration to the matters which he had undertaken to examine, but I appreciate that it is not strictly in Order at this stage.

I hope that the House will feel that my right hon. Friend has been co-operative in this matter. He has asked me to say how much he appreciates the work which hon. Members have put in on this Bill, and how much he has been assisted by the suggestions which have been made in trying to give the necessary sense of security to members of the police. The Debates which we have had are a measure of the close interest which hon. Members take in the welfare of the police, and the recognition of this House of the importance of the work which they do. The House can feel that this Bill gives good security to members of the police within the framework of the new general security provisions for the whole nation in which the Police Forces in the future, unlike in the past, will share.

11.35 a.m.

Mr. Grimston

There is no doubt that this is now a very different Bill from the one which was introduced on Second Reading. When it was introduced everything was to be left to regulation subject to negative procedure, with the sole exception of existing pensions. I would like to recall, with becoming modesty, what I said on Second Reading, namely that we must be careful to put back everything into the statute that we possibly could, because great uneasiness had developed in the Police Force. I suggested that both existing members and those who might join in future, would have the feeling that their pension conditions might be altered arbitrarily at any time unless much was put back into the statute. I am very glad that the Home Secretary has accepted that view. In the various stages of this Bill we have put back a great deal into the statute. As the hon. Gentleman mentioned, the right of appeal has been put back into the statute, and the conditions as to forfeiture of pension have been put back. Also, our request that a sentence of imprisonment of 12 months, and not three, must have been incurred before pension can be forfeited, has been granted.

This morning, we have safeguarded existing pension rights. The existing pension rights of all those now serving are secured in the statute. That is what the new Clause means. Similarly, the conditions of pension which new entrants accept are also secured. I think that we may say that we have secured a great deal of what we set out to achieve, and I express my appreciation of the action of the Home Secretary in meeting us on so many points.

I would like to discuss the question of regulations, particularly in the light of the remarks of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown). I must concede that there are advantages in being able to make adjustments by regulation from time to time. As the hon. Gentleman said, very often there may be matters which require adjustment and are desired by the police but are held up because of the reluctance of most Governments to find time for Bills. In the future, it may well be that things which otherwise would be held up will be done by this procedure with its affirmative Resolution which we have secured today. However, there are those who hold the view that everything should be in the statute.

I consider that this Bill is a pretty fair compromise, and after all, compromise is part of the genius of our race. What we have done is to put into the statute the minimum conditions of any police officer's pension at any time. The man who is serving at present is safeguarded, and those of the future will know that the set of pension conditions which they freely accepted at the time of entry into the force cannot be altered to their detriment except by another Act of Parliament. We have done a great deal. Whilst I would not go so far as to say that we have got the best of both worlds, I agree that we have secured a most reasonable compromise.

In the near future the Home Secretary will introduce the first set of regulations, and he has asked that representations should be made about them between now and Easter. I have one or two small points to mention. I think, Mr. Speaker, that it will be in Order as these regulations are to be introduced under the Bill as it now stands.

The first point with regard to the option of new entrants whether they shall take the full police pension plus full insurance, or a lower police pension and national insurance, has already been mentioned. That option is reserved to existing members. I believe very strongly that, in the interests of recruiting, that option should be extended to new entrants into the force. I had some correspondence on the subject which takes a different line from that which the Home Secretary took on an earlier stage, and it is quite obvious that there are some who consider that the deductions for police pension and national insurance are more than they wish to pay. Very well, give them the chance of taking the lower rate of police pension. At the same time, there are others who feel strongly that they should be able to have the full quota of police pension, plus national insurance, and, if they should so elect, it should be allowed. I would reiterate this point for the consideration of the Home Secretary before he introduces the first set of regulations.

There are one or two small points to which I would refer, one of which is that service before reaching 20 years of age should count for pension, and I find it very difficult to understand why that should not be conceded. The second is that, on transfer from one force to another, all previous service should count.

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I would like to point out to him that the Debate on Third Reading should be confined to the Bill as it exists, and should not extend to criticism of administration. I am not quite sure that, when the hon. Gentleman is talking about possible regulations, that matter would come under the Bill or under the heading of administration, which is not in the Bill.

Mr. Grimston

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I submit that what I am discussing is the content of regulations which must be introduced by the Home Secretary as a result of the Third Reading of this Bill.

Mr. Speaker

Is not that administration, therefore?

Mr. Grimston

I would submit that it is delegated legislation under this Bill.

Mr. Speaker

Very well.

Mr. Grimston

I am much obliged. The other small point is that the retirement pension should be based on the scale of pay at the time of retirement. The Home Secretary has asked for notice of these matters between now and Easter. I have given him notice of some, and I have no doubt he will receive others from all quarters, and I commend them to his careful attention. There will, of course, be further opportunities of discussing the matter when the regulations are brought before Parliament.

As the Home Secretary has said, we want a contented police force of the highest standard. I believe that, in responding to the feelings expressed during the various stages of this Bill, the Home Secretary has taken a step which is conducive to that end. By introducing the Amendments which have been asked for, I think that the feeling of uneasiness which was provoked by the Bill as it was first produced, should now be allayed. In conclusion, I should like to tell the Home Secretary again that we appreciate the way in which he has met us in this matter. We believe that the Bill is vastly improved, and we shall, without further ado, let it go forward to its Third Reading.

11.44 a.m.

Mr. W. J. Brown

In the three days that we have devoted to the various stages of this Bill, there has been, so to speak, a coalition between all sides of the House radically to alter its terms. Today, if I might adapt a phrase of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), "the famous Coalition" breaks up. My allies opposite accept the Bill as the best they can get from their Government. I understand that very well, and I have no criticism to make against them for accepting this as the best they can get. My allies above the Gangway are also deserting the famous coalition, and urging that we shall accept the Bill, because it is a good "compromise," and we are told that to accept compromises is part of the political genius of this race. I share the view that compromises ought to be accepted, and, when a compromise gives me all I want, I am the first to accept it. This particular compromise does not give me all I want, or all that I think is proper, and therefore, although deserted by my hon. Friends opposite and those on this side of the House, the battle must go on.

It would be churlish not to recognise that the Bill comes here in very different shape from that in which we found it on Second Reading. We have secured in the Bill entitlement to pension, right of appeal to quarter sessions, statutory deductions in respect of pensions, improved conditions as regards forfeiture, and a defence of the rights of existing members of the force to conditions no worse than they now enjoy. It would be ungenerous in the extreme not to recognise that these points do represent an immense improvement in the Bill, and, if we have to have this sort of a Bill, I would join in the gratitude which has been expressed on all sides of the House for the changes made.

I do not, however, think that this is the sort of Bill that we should have had. If the Bill goes through in its present form, the only safeguard which the police will have in future is prior discussion at the Police Council before the Home Secretary exercises his unfettered discretion. That is the situation as it will be if the Bill goes through as it stands. What is this Police Council to whom we are asked to entrust the examination of pensions matters affecting the police and to make recommendations to the Home Secretary? I do not know whether the House is aware of the composition of the Police Council, but it ought to be, because it is largely to them that we are leaving, subject to the Home Secretary's veto, the consideration of matters affecting the pensions of the police.

Who comprise the Police Council? First of all, the Home Secretary has a right to attend—a right which he does not always exercise, but which he can use if he likes. Secondly, there are three or four Home Office officials. Thirdly, there are two or three representatives of the Association of Municipal Corporations. Fourthly, there are two or three representatives of the County Councils Association. Fifthly, there is the Commissioner of Police, or his deputy, in the case of the Metropolitan Force. Sixthly, there is the Commissioner of Police for the City of London. Seventhly, there are two or three representatives of the Chief Constables' Association. Eighthly, there are four representatives of superintendents of police. Ninthly, and this is the point to which I want to draw particular attention, there are nine representatives of the Police Federation.

Now, of all the bodies I have mentioned in this list of nine sets of people, only the last, the Police Federation, can claim to be even remotely a body of a trade union character. Even that claim would be a very remote claim, because, under the constitution of the Police Council, of the nine representatives of the Federation, three are inspectors, three are sergeants, and three are constables. In other words, out of this imposing and numerous committee of something like 25 to 30 people, the constables, who comprise, I suppose, about 80 per cent. of the entire Police Forces of Britain, have to content themselves with three representatives on that very large committee.

I want to put this to my hon. Friends on the other side. They do not always agree with me in politics, but one of the things on which I am sure we are in agreement is the conduct of trade union affairs. There is no hon. Member on that side of the House who would describe that body as a suitable negotiating instrument for a body of workers in this country. There is not a Member on that side of the House who would say that was a satisfactory body—a body with a total of 25 or 30 members, out of whom only three represent the interests of 80 per cent. of the Police Force. It is to that body that we shall be compelled to leave the consideration of matters touching the pensions of the police when this Bill goes through. I say quite categorically that, deserted as I am on the Left, and fled from as I am on the Right, I stand by the view that this is not the kind of body to which we should entrust these matters.

I again make the appeal—I should be out of Order if I pursued it at length—which I have made over and over again, that the Home Office should revise its whole attitude towards the Police Force, should allow them to have a reasonably representative trade union, and should give them the rights of conciliation and arbitration which other bodies of public servants enjoy. As I say, I have made that appeal several times before, and I shall go on making it in this House again and again, before the next election, and—I trust—afterwards as well. I would also like to support what was said by an hon. Member above the Gangway about the counting of service for pension before the age of 20 years. The Under-Secretary of State and the Solicitor-General will probably know that, in the case of the Civil Service proper, the date from which pensionable service reckons used to be 16 years, and is now 18 years. I do not see why there should be a differentiation of two years against the police in this regard.

I have said what I wanted to say about the Bill. It is better than when it first came to us, but it is still an unsatisfactory Bill. I am not moved by the argument that there is some advantage in adjusting by regulation. I would agree with that argument of my hon. Friends were we dealing with comparatively small matters of detail. But we have left out of the Bill, not only small matters of detail, but the main structure of the pension scheme. The basis of the scheme is not described, the number of years which have to be put in before a man qualifies, and the amount of pension to be secured on retirement—all these things are not dealt with in the Bill. While there may be some advantage in leaving comparatively small matters to be dealt with by regulation, there is no advantage whatever in leaving out some of the main provisions of the scheme.

Therefore, although I regard this as a less objectionable Bill than it was when it first came before the House, I still do not regard it as a satisfactory Bill. I do not propose to divide the House against it, because I should have difficulty in getting a couple of tellers out of the only party whose position in this matter is not now hopelessly compromised by the speeches which have been made. It is not a good Bill, and will never be a good Bill. Nor shall we get a good Bill until the Home Office has radically adjusted its views as to the type of organisation which the police ought to be allowed to have to represent them.

11.54 a.m.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

I am always interested to hear the views of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), but I must say that, on this occasion, I rather regret the remarks he made about the constitution of the Police Council at the present time. That Council is a body which I believe has the fundamental and complete respect of the whole of the Police Forces of this country.

Mr. W. J. Brown

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting him, I would point out that I was not attacking the constitution of the Police Council in respect of any other function than this particular one, in regard to which, I say, it is unrepresentative.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his interruption and explanation, but I do not think he has really improved the position, because the functions of the Police Council, as we are considering it this morning, are those of the representative body which is to be consulted by the Secretary of State on all matters connected with this Bill. Therefore, it is fundamental to the whole basis of the intention contained in the Bill that the Police Council should have the confidence of the Police Forces of the country as a whole.

Mr. W. J. Brown

It has not got it.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

I believe it has, and that such suggestions as the hon. Gentleman makes, and has just made, only tend at the present time to undermine the confidence which does exist, and to throw doubt into the minds of the members of the forces as to whether or not the Police Council is an appropriate body to represent their interests in the consultations which the Secretary of State is to have with it. However, I do not wish to pursue that point, because I believe it is one which can do more harm than good.

I return to the more general tenor of the Debate, to say, with my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston), that I believe we have very largely succeeded in improving this Bill. When opening the Debate, the Under-Secretary of State made one remark with which I did not feel quite in agreement. It related to the argument which we have been trying to press upon the Government right from the beginning—that we are setting about this matter in the wrong way. In order to overcome their immediate difficulties, the Government have explained that it is necessary to have means whereby the pensions, particularly, of the Police Force generally and their widows, can be amended before 5th July. We maintain that that step should have been taken by a temporary Measure, an enabling Measure, to allow the right hon. Gentleman to deal with it for the time being by regulation, and then to introduce his permanent legislation as soon as that has been fixed, and as soon as the committees, which are now considering the rates, have reached their conclusions.

The Under-Secretary of State said the difficulty about that was the question of finding Parliamentary time in which to get the ultimate major Bill. I venture to think that the proposals contained in this Bill are going to use up more Parliamentary time than would otherwise have been the case. There is coming before us at the conclusion of this Debate a very minor Bill which will occupy next to no time in this House, and for which there has been no difficulty in finding the time. I believe the position would have been the same in the case of a Police Pensions Enabling Bill. We are now going to have, not only a full series of Debates upon this Bill, but, at more or less regular intervals, Debates on the affirmative Resolutions to be laid before the House in connection with the regulations to be made, and in regard to which the hon. and learned Solicitor-General has, to our universal gratification, recognised the need for a really full and proper Debate, instead of it being tucked in at the end of the day. In those circumstances, I believe we shall occupy much more Parliamentary time in considering these matters than would have been the case had we debated the alternative procedure which I have outlined.

We are grateful to the Government for accepting so many of the suggestions made from this side of the House. We have the same object in view, and I believe the Bill goes a very long way towards attaining that object, namely, to restore the standards of conditions of service in the Police Force. I do not believe that the standards of the police themselves need any restoration; they are as high as they have ever been. But that cannot continue so long as their conditions of service remain static while those of everybody else are improved. We know, particularly, of the police with whom we come into immediate contact within the precincts of this House. We may think they have a comparatively easy time. Speaking as one who has served with a great many of them and who has been brought into contact with the duties of policemen, I know that such easy time as they may have now is a reward for the very hard work which they have done out on the streets in different parts of London.

We must remember particularly the country policeman. He has hardly been mentioned in the course of these Debates, and it is essential that this Bill should provide him, as I believe it does, with a a far better assurance concerning his conditions and the conditions for his widow and dependants after he leaves the Service. The country policeman occupies a place in country life which, so far as I am aware, is unique in any part of the world and in any walk of life. He is the guide, philosopher and friend of everyone in the community, and the type of work which he is called upon to discharge would fill an ordinary town policeman like myself with alarm and despondency. Certainly his methods would sometimes not be acceptable to all the superintendents in a Metropolitan borough, but they are invariably effective. A great responsibility is imposed upon him, and he has to be a highly qualified and picked man of the utmost integrity and one whom all the community trust. To get a man of that sort into a Police Force at present necessitates that his conditions, both during his service and in relation to pensions, are such that the very best type of man is attracted.

That, I believe, will be the result of this Bill, and I am particularly gratified that we have added the new Clause this morning. It ensures that, although the conditions themselves are not enshrined in the Measure, all men now and in future serving in the Police Forces will know that their conditions of service cannot be worse than those which they undertook when they joined the Service. That assurance will go a very long way towards attracting the right type of man. While personally I am disappointed that this Bill will never be called a policeman's charter, nevertheless it provides the groundwork for very satisfactory and assured conditions for the most responsible body of men working in the country today. Now that the House will be able to consider and debate, though not to amend, the regulations before they come into operation, that groundwork may well develop in the course of time into a very real and proper charter for the Police Forces of this country.

12.4 p.m.

Major Bruce

Without wishing to reestablish the coalition to which the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) referred, and of which he has appointed himself the Metternich, I would say that I entirely endorse his remarks about the unrepresentative nature of the Police Council. I do not think the hon. Gentleman meant in any way to impugn the integrity, sincerity or the complete reliability of any of the existing members of the Police Council. I think he was endeavouring to put forward the view that a council thus constituted, and consisting of extremely worthy individuals, nevertheless could not be held properly to represent those 80 per cent. of the Police Forces which are comprised of the ordinary constable. I hope it may be possible that in the passage of time, stimulated by pressure from all quarters of the House, the police generally will have a rather more representative body to negotiate their conditions for them.

This is a Bill which, on Second Reading, might normally have been thought to be just the type of Bill which we can go through very quickly on a Friday, as so much of our legislation sometimes does. The fact that the discussion on it has lasted so long is a tribute to the Parliamentary institution itself, because the Bill has been subjected to considerable criticism, the majority of it constructive, from all quarters of the House, and it is very different from what appeared on Second Reading. There have been representations from all quarters of the House on matters which have been subsequently incorporated in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) and I are particularly satisfied that during the progress of the Bill we have obtained five out of the seven concessions which we sought originally.

We would, therefore, like to thank the Home Secretary for the very constructive spirit in which he has approached the Bill. Some of the more substantive conditions which many of us sought to have incorporated have, in fact, been put into the Bill. Not all of us on this side of the House took the view that every condition in regard to pensions should be incorporated in it. I myself took the view that it was very wise that the variable factors—that is to say, the various rates which might have to operate owing to a varying cost of living—should be incorporated by regulation, and that it would be wise to have only the substantive conditions of pensions incorporated in the Bill. I cannot say that I am completely satisfied that they have all been put in, but I am satisfied that the Home Secretary has made a very workable attempt in an accommodating spirit to meet the wishes of the majority of hon. Members.

There is one thing which I am particularly pleased about, and I think this will find an echo in all parts of the House and, indeed, outside. Although it was originally proposed that the Bill should be confined to the conditions of future pensions—that is to say, pensions that will fall due to be granted after the appointed day—the Home Secretary has been humane enough to accede to our wishes and take powers to make regulations to grant pensions for what we call the pre-1918 class of widow as well as for existing widows who have lost their husbands and those wives who may lose their husbands prior to the appointed day. We are also considerably reassured by the fact that the appeal to the courts in the event of forfeiture, and in the event of there being dissatisfaction with pensions, has now been granted in rather more comprehensive terms than was indicated in the White Paper which accompanied the issue of the Bill on First Reading.

Also, in relation to forfeiture, many concessions have been granted, some of them completely unobstrusive. For example, in the case of a pension having to be forfeited by reason of a former police constable having been convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment for three months, so far as I am aware there was no mention in the House that in other branches of the Civil Service the period was 12 months. I believe unofficial representations were made to the Home Secretary to which he willingly responded, and the term of 12 months was inserted. We very much appreciate that concession.

The other representations relating to forfeiture, which were made by the hon. Member for Oldham, myself and other hon. Members, have not been fully met but they provide a very great measure of safeguard. For example, we are glad that it has been possible to insert in the Bill the provision whereby if a police constable who has retired is carrying on a business as a private detective and the police authority does not like it, he is to be given notice in writing of the fact that they wish him to stop it, before he becomes liable to have his pension forfeited. These, and numerous other provisions that I could name, show that a real endeavour has been made to make this a good Bill, but here I echo sentiments in moral support of the hon. Member for Rugby; it is, of course, the regulations which will have to be laid before this House which are still the most important part of the Act itself.

During the Debate, not many of us have spent an undue proportion of time in pleading for more favourable consideration to be given to higher rates of pension for existing widows and for those who come under the purview of the regulations to be issued. The reason for that is not only to save the time of the House, but also because we knew perfectly well that the rates of pension, as such, would be subject to regulation later and, therefore, we would have a fuller opportunity of discussion. I do not think it would be right, however, if we allowed the Third Reading to pass without saying to the Home Secretary that we expect, when the regulations are laid before Parliament, that they will contain provisions which will show a very substantial increase in rates of pension over those envisaged in the White Paper. When these regulations are laid, they will be subject to very careful scrutiny indeed. I hope the Home Secretary will make some endeavour to examine the point which has been raised, principally from the other side of the House, on the question of pensionable service below the age of 20. I think the case made by hon. Members opposite in support of such a provision is completely unanswerable, and I feel that the regulations should cover it.

We, on this side of the House, are extremely pleased with this Bill. It does not go as far as we would like—Bills rarely do—but we think the Home Secretary has met us in a most constructive spirit, and we are satisfied that the Bill is in the best interests of a very gallant body of men who so unobtrusively do the duty which this House from time to time assigns to them.

12.13 p.m.

Colonel Wheatley (Dorset, Eastern)

I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) that the regulations are the important things. I think a good many of the police appreciate the fact that the scales pension are to be fixed in the regulations, and not in an actual Act of Parliament, because they have an impression that it would be easier to make a change in a regulation than it would be to make a change in an Act of Parliament. A matter which is causing great contentment among the police is the improvement in the widow's pension. Many of those who have acted on standing joint committees will remember how many times the question of the scandalous rates of pension has been discussed in the past, and this improvement gives great contentment to the police. When the Home Secretary is working out his regulations, under his delegated powers, I hope he will not shut his mind entirely to the question of the widow of a policeman who married after he left the Service. I quite agree there are difficulties in the way, and there must be some sort of stopper put on the designing woman who wants to marry a retired policeman because he has one leg in the grave. There are other cases, however, which deserve consideration, and which have not that fault.

I agree with the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) in his remarks about the Police Council. I have taken a good deal of trouble to find out from the police of various ranks what is their view of this Council and whether they have confidence in it, and my opinion is that they have perfect confidence in it. They think the Council does very good work, and that their interests are very well covered. I do not say they would not like the number of representatives of actual constables to be increased, but I have spoken to those who have served on that Council, and they say they have confidence in the way it is working. I do not have the same anxiety about this as the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), perhaps because I am not so imbued with the idea of turning it into a trade union, which apparently underlies some of his remarks.

I think that, as a whole, the police welcome this Bill. They feel it is a step forward, and they feel that they will now have a far better deal than they have had in the past. I welcome the Bill, and I am sure it will help recruiting. After all, another point about having regulations is that if the Minister is not helped in his recruiting, he will be able to alter the conditions far better than if they were embodied in an Act of Parliament. I believe this Bill will add to the attraction of the Police Force, and that the Home Secretary will be able to get the type of recruit we want to see him get.

12.17 p.m.

Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)

I think it would be doing a great disservice both to the Police Force and to the public interest to say anything which might tend to weaken the influence of the Police Council. I was very disturbed on the Second Reading when the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) raised what appeared to me to be a desire to revive a police trade union. I should have thought that that chapter, being closed, was much better left alone, for this reason: the Police Council which is referred to in this Bill, is a representative body drawn from all elements of those who belong to or are directly interested in the constitution and the administration of that particular body, and the Police Federation, formed by statute in 1919, is an important unit in that amalgamation. It ought to be said, I think, that it was proved at that time, and it stands now beyond controversy, that the idea of having, or reviving, a trade union for the Police Force is not merely impracticable, but constitutionally impossible.

Mr. W. J. Brown


Mr. Turner-Samuels

It may be nonsense to the hon. Member, but the answer is this: a member of the Police Force is an officer of the Crown.

Mr. Brown

A civil servant.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

He is a public servant. He is in no way in the same position as the ordinary workman, whose interests are, and have to be, protected by his trade union. He is not even a servant of the borough or county council which employs him, although it is quite true that he often is under their supervision or subject to their regulations.

Mr. Speaker

It seems to me we are getting a little far from the Bill. It may be mentioned as an objection to the Police Council that it is not a trade union, but hon. Members cannot argue the merits of whether or not it should be a trade union—that is not in the Bill and has nothing to do with this Bill.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

I abide by your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I would re- affirm that it would be very unfortunate indeed if anything which came from this House appeared to tend to weaken the influence of the Police Council.

This is a peculiar Bill. It is an attempt to legislate by regulation and, in my humble view, nothing could be worse than that: it is worse than legislating by reference. It can only be justified, in my submission, on one or, perhaps, two grounds. The first is this. The Home Secretary has said explicitly that the reason the Bill is in its present form is that he intends to set up a committee to advise on conditions wages and pensions, and so forth, of the Police Forces, and that the Bill is in its present form, therefore, merely as a temporary Measure, in order to meet the requirements of the National Insurance provisions which are coming into force this year. In my view, that is the only justification for a Bill of this kind. The Home Secretary says it is impossible to include in it now all the provisions which will have to be made by regulation when the committee has reported to him.

However, I think that the form of the Bill is not quite as objectionable as it may appear when we take into account the fact that the provisions of the Police Pensions Act, 1921, still operate. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) said that the Bill in its present form was an improved version from what it was on Second Reading. With respect, I cannot see any improvement whatever in substance at all, and for this reason: there is nothing in this Bill, except in one respect, which is not contained in the Police Pensions Act, 1921; although I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it would be much better if the Bill contained all the provisions which are necessary for improvement of the conditions and pensions of the police, and, in matters of this kind, if the Bill were more of a code, and did not leave so many things to be settled later by regulations. But all the new matters in the Bill are contained in substance in the Police Pensions Act, 1921; and, therefore, I do say without fear of contradiction that there is nothing material added by this Bill, except one item, which is an improvement on that position.

That is not necessarily a criticism of the Bill. The Home Secretary has tried to meet criticisms that have been made, and he has tried, as far as he can, to import into the Bill these additional provisions; but, in fact, the matter is not carried one step further, because these provisions still in fact operate now, and when the regulations are introduced there is a clear provision in this Bill to provide that, as soon as the Act of 1921 is repealed, then regulations have got to be made which are consequent upon and replace that repeal. Therefore, really it does not carry the matter further at all.

What I think is important, and what, I think, this Bill in fact does, is to see that when the regulations are introduced not only are the provisions there to be as good as, if not better than, the provisions in the 1921 Police Pensions Act. That is the value of the Bill, because there is that one point which is, although an additional point, in the new Clause, that the regulations shall not be worse so far as the police pensions are concerned than they have been hitherto. There is, however, in my view, an ambiguity in the new clause which has been introduced. It refers to existing members of the Police Force, and it refers to the fact that they shall not receive conditions worse than the conditions that were prevailing at the time they joined the force. That, of course, would relate to anyone who joined while the new regulations are in existence. But suppose they join later and other regulations contemporaneously are made, it seems to me that then they may not be in a position to claim the same rights as the original members of the force could claim by the first regulations. I do not say that that is conclusively so, but I should like the Solicitor-General or the Secretary of State to look into that matter, because I think on a first glance at the language of the Clause it is a little ambiguous, and that the Clause may not, as regards the whole of the new regulations, embrace as fully as intended all those who subsequently come into the force.

Subject to these considerations, I think the Bill is one which had to be introduced. I do not think it is a good Bill by any means, but I do not think that could, in the circumstances, be helped. The Bill had to be introduced because of the various provisions in the National Insurance Acts that have been passed, and I think we have to take it as it is. We have, however, to make it clear, as the view on all sides of the House, that the regulations which the Home Secretary is to introduce should be such as to meet with the accord of this House and also the requirements of justice for the members of the Police Force.

12.27 p.m.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) is no longer in his place. He seemed in his speech to be imposing upon himself the role of Casabianca, as the only Member of the House who stood up for legislative principle against the insidious attraction of acting by regulation. However, I think that the speeches from both sides of the House have made it clear that the invidious and, perhaps, over-heated role of Casabianca is not one which the hon. Member is entitled to claim. Of course, it is perfectly true, as the Under-Secretary of State said, that procedure by regulations is highly convenient for Departments. Administrative convenience, however, is a temptation to which capable Ministers are peculiarly susceptible, and for that reason I venture to warn the Under-Secrtary of State of the danger of allowing himself to be attracted too much in that direction.

After all, the point is, surely, that when we are providing the legal basis for a great national service it is far more satisfactory if that legal basis be an Act of Parliament than if it be a system of regulation making. That, surely, is a principle which is really far more valid in this House of Commons than even a very considerable degree of administrative convenience. It was the basis of the 1921 Act. Disguise it as hon. Members may try to do to themselves, the main effect of this Bill is to take the police service from a wholly statutory basis, and place it now, as the Bill has been amended, on a partially regulatory, partially statutory basis. That, in a sentence, is the general effect of this Bill. It is for that reason that many of us, while we appreciate highly the manner in which the Bill has been conducted through this House, do none the less regret—and seriously regret—that feature of it.

I do not mean to labour the point, but the police service is so important in our community that, if any service is, it surely is entitled to a statutory basis for its pensions and conditions. We are, after all, legislating for, I imagine, a good many years. We have seen in the last 48 hours how, in another country, a revolution has been achieved largely through party infiltration into and command of a police service. That very fact should convey to all hon Members the desirability of securing in this country that the police service and its conditions are based on an Act of Parliament, as free as possible from interference by the Government of the day.

Having said that, it would be most ungenerous not to admit that both the Under-Secretary and his right hon. Friend have conducted this Bill, subject to its limitations, with a very proper regard for the feelings of this House. It has already been pointed out, notably by the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce), how many important matters have now been transferred from the regulation zone into the statutory zone. Although Acts of Parliament cannot be evaluated like battleships, by their tonnage, it is significant that a Bill which, when it came before the House for Second Reading, occupied nine pages, now, as printed this morning, occupies 12 pages, and as a result of the Amendments accepted today will no doubt run into the unlucky number of 13 pages. That illustrates the fact that on this Bill at any rate the House of Commons has been allowed to exercise its proper function of amending legislation.

Paradoxically enough, one of the strongest arguments in favour of the legislative as opposed to the regulatory process, is that on this very Bill, which confers power to legislate by regulation, there has been so vivid a demonstration of the value of procedure by Act of Parliament. It is curious, ironic, and perhaps a trifle tragic, that that should be so, but it is right that all hon. Members should acknowledge the very reasonable attitude which has been adopted by the Government. I was about to use the adjective "flexible," before I realised that the learned Solicitor-General was present, and that that was a word to which he was peculiarly sensitive.

Undoubtedly, as a result of the proper discharge by the House of Commons of its functions, this Bill leaves this House, not only a bigger Bill but a better Bill than when it came to us. Equally, hon. Members must remember that the conditions which matter most to the police remain to be dealt with in the regulations which the Home Secretary will be empowered to make under this Bill. I support the very strong plea made by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) on certain points, and also the plea made from the other side of the House on the subject of the widows. The House will recollect that in moving the Second Reading the Home Secretary said that so far as the widows were concerned nothing could be done under the Bill, as it then stood, until July, 1951. I take it that as a result of one of the new Clauses inserted in Committee it will now be possible for that action to be taken as soon as the regulations are tabled this year.

I should be very grateful if the Solicitor-General would indicate that what the Home Secretary said, no doubt quite properly, on Second Reading—that July, 1951, was the earliest date on which action could be taken to help these widows—is now no longer the fact, in that it will be not only possible but the intention of the Government to take this action in the very near future. I and other hon. Members were shocked to hear during Second Reading that the widows of policemen should, with prices at their present level, be receiving a pension of not more than £42 a year. I hope—as I believe will be the case—that the Solicitor-General will be able to give us an assurance on that point. As we leave the Bill now, with eager anticipation of what the regulations will contain, perhaps I should assure the Under-Secretary that those regulations will be scrutinised very carefully when laid before Parliament.

12.34 p.m.

Mr. Perrins

Having already given my blessing to this Bill, I do not propose to delay it unduly, save to say that there is one matter which we must view with a measure of disquiet and which was referred to by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston). Under this Bill, future entrants to the Police Force will be put on a different scale so far as their contributions to superannuation schemes are concerned. I am all in favour of policemen being brought within the social security scheme and having to contribute. Also, I fully appreciate that men who have contributed to superannuation schemes for a number of years should continue to do so. But I fail to see why the Home Secretary should arbitrarily say to future entrants, "You will be able to contribute only a lesser sum than those who are already members of the force."

Speaking as one with much experience of this matter, I say that will create two classes and a measure of discontent in our force in future years. What a man can afford to pay should not be determined arbitrarily, for one man may have no children, another may have one, and a third may have half-a-dozen. The individual policeman should be able to elect whether to pay to the full superannuation scheme or whether he cannot afford it, because there is a limit even to what a policeman can afford to pay. Were policemen permitted to elect whether they contribute to a modified superannuation scheme, never again would there be any criticism of the administration. Unless there is that choice policemen are bound to say in future, "I would have preferred a full superannuation scheme. I feel that superannuation is a good thing, but the Bill and the Home Secretary deny me the right to have a full superannuation scheme." I hope that matter will be further considered.

I am glad that in regulations made under this Measure consideration will be given to the widows of police officers. Hon. Members may remember my previous arguments during Committee. When my right hon. Friend replied to me then he reminded me of my old schoolmaster who, when giving me corporal punishment, would look over his spectacles and say—I never believed it then, and I do not believe it now—"This hurts me more than it hurts you." My right hon. Friend said that I had made an emotional appeal because I referred to pre-1918 widows with no pensions, and widows who had only £52 a year. I have not been able to investigate this, but, unless my memory serves me false, I believe we have already established a precedent by which such a widow could be dealt with under the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1925. I believe it was permissible for widows of those who had not contributed to be provided for. If a man had followed an occupation—such as a miner—where people in the industry now contributed, it was held that had he been alive he would have contributed, so they were included.

When we mentioned this matter before, we did not intend to create a special class so far as the widows of police officers were concerned. What we were anxious to do was to ensure that the widows of police officers were in no way worse off than those of other civilians. We shall have an opportunity of pressing this matter when the regulations come before the House. I feel that the Home Secretary is to be congratulated on the way he has met us on most of our points, and I believe this Measure to have been greatly improved in conequence.

12.40 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I should like the Minister to explain how far the regulations will apply to Scotland. The point is not clear in the Bill. It is also not clear who is ultimately to make the regulations. I hope that Scottish policemen will not be in any less favourable position than their colleagues who work south of the Border. I also hope that the generous provisions of the Bill will apply to Scotland, and that if there are any provisions that are less generous, we shall be able to modify them by negotiation north of the Border.

I share the enthusiasm that the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has shown for the police and for their better terms of retirement pension and superannuation. When we produce a Bill for superannuation and better times for miners, I hope he will be equally enthusiastic. Police organisations in Scotland are anxious that the regulations shall be interpreted generously and humanly, so that police widows will receive the fair treatment that they deserve. I share the view of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) that the Police Council should be made more democratic and that the rank and file of the police should be allowed the same democratic rights as other workers who are in other kinds of Government employment. Prison warders have no caste system in their organisation and are not divided into ordinary, principal and chief warders. I fail to see why the caste system which prevails in regard to the police should not be done away with altogether.

One hon. Member has said that ladies might now be encouraged to have an eye upon elderly policemen about to retire, because of the handsome pension. In Scotland, there would be a snag. One of the main grievances of the police in Scotland is that they look forward with dread to their retirement because they are then faced with the problem of getting houses. This is one of the most deep-seated grievances. Over and over again I have known of policemen in my area wishing to retire on their pensions, but finding that they would then have to vacate their police houses and go into the market to find others. I do not think ladies would find it attractive to marry somebody who was unable to obtain housing accommodation when he was about to retire upon pension. I hope that the Solicitor-General, who is to reply, will tell us how the proposed regulations will affect Scotland.

12.45 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

The Debate has traversed a wide area, and it will be difficult, within the limits of the kind of speech which the House would expect from me, to deal with all the points of detail that have been raised. Perhaps I might first deal with the points raised by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). The Bill applies to Scotland. Clause 1 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations. "Secretary of State" includes, of course, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Perhaps I might pass away from that matter of detail for a moment to consider some general arguments that have been advanced. The main argument, to which I feel I can add very little, has been whether we have acted rightly in providing for the making of regulations to frame the police pensions scheme. We have endeavoured to embody a compromise in the terms of the Bill. The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) expressed the view that it was a satisfactory compromise, but the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) felt that he was not able to take quite the same view. He was, I think, in agreement that a great deal of progress has been made towards meeting his point of view. When one seeks to put upon the Statute Book Bills dealing with this kind of problem, one is faced with the difficulty of balancing the necessity for periodic change with the necessity for a permanent basis of solidity.

When the Under-Secretary of State spoke in the Second Reading Debate, he said—and he has repeated it today—that after the passing of the Police Act, 1921, a number of improvements were thought of upon which everybody was agreed. It was thought desirable to change the scheme embodied in the Act, but it was found not practicable to do so because each change would have meant fresh legislation. The result was that admitted imperfections were not removed for a considerable time. That fact points strongly in the direction of a regulation-making power to enable imperfections to be adjusted when they come to light. Nevertheless, we see the point of view that the great services rendered by the Police Force should be recognised, so far as is possible, by some code embodied in an Act of Parliament giving the police a guarantee in the matter of pensions.

In framing the Bill, we have tried to balance those two considerations against each other. We hope, as the hon. Member for Westbury said, that we have arrived at the best workable compromise in the circumstances. It would not assist the House if I recapitulated the respects in which we have advanced in the work of embodying in the terms of the Bill various improvements, such as in relation to forfeiture, appeals, future regulations and entitlement to pension, provisions that future regulations are not to disadvantage people who are serving in the Police Force when those regulations are made, and so on. We have gone a good distance towards meeting the point of view of the hon. Member for Rugby. Time will show whether we have reached a sound compromise in these matters.

The criticism was made, and evoked a great deal of discussion, that, notwithstanding all that, matters were still left to the unhampered discretion of the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Scotland. It was pointed out, in answer to that criticism, that there must be discussion with the Police Council. That answer was replied to with the further criticism that the Police Council was not fully representative. Nobody suggested that the Police Council is not entitled to the highest possible measure of respect. I am sure that everybody is grateful for the great services which the Police Council has rendered. Nobody has disputed it. With regard to the point whether the Police Council is representative, the discussions contemplated are not such that decisions have to be taken upon them by vote. They are for the purpose of exploration and investigation. The object of the discussion is that every point of view should be placed prominently before the Secretary of State when he is considering what regulations ought to be made.

I hope the House will agree that the representation of the Police Federation ensures that the constables' point of view is brought prominently to notice. I believe that everybody with experience of the proceedings of the Police Council would agree that the representatives of the Police Federation have shown themselves fully able forcibly to put forward the points of view of those whom they represent. I would, therefore, part from that point by saying that the object of those discussions is that every point of view shall be brought forward and we feel that, as the body is at present composed, that result should be achieved. I feel that everybody will agree that the consultations will have the result of bringing the proposals clearly before the Police Federation so that they can then consider them among themselves and, in the time they have available, make sure that when the order comes before the House for approval, those who are minded to speak for the Police Federation will have had an adequate opportunity of acquainting themselves with the arguments which the Police Federation feel should be brought forward.

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that, when the regulations are brought before the House, the House is debarred from any line of discussion which could lead to amendment of the regulations?

The Solicitor-General:

I quite agree that the regulations cannot be amended. The object of bringing them before the House is to ask the House to approve of them. The House may decline to approve of them. The result of the discussion may be that the House will say that it does not consider the regulations to be suitable. No institution is perfect in this imperfect world, but we hope that experience will show that the point of view of those who are represented by the Police Federation will be prominently brought forward, first to the notice of the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland, and, secondly, if the Secretaries of State feel that they are unable to accede to the point of view which is advanced, they will be prominently brought forward and discussed in this House when the regulations are submitted.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

In that case, would the hon. and learned Gentleman promise that there will always be a free vote of the House on this matter?

The Solicitor-General

I believe the hon. Gentleman could answer that question as well as I could.

Mr. W. J. Brown

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman—he is always so helpful and kindly in these matters—but I wish to put this question. On what ground of principle does the State, in dealing with every other category of public employees, including disciplined forces like the Prison Service, agree to the provision of thoroughly representative machinery, coupled with the rights of conciliation and arbitration, and when it comes to deal with the Police Force alone, deny every one of those three essential elements in the preparation of these regulations?

The Solicitor-General

That question raises very wide issues. In order to answer it, I should have to go over matters scarcely within the purview of this Debate. In dealing with the police, we have not departed from the point of view that they should be represented as fully as possible, and we hope that experience will show that the arrangements embodied in the Bill will lead to that result. I quite agree that all members of the Police Force who are vitally affected by the provisions of this Bill should be represented as fully as possible in any discussions that take place on the regulations which will be submitted to the House. It is for that purpose that we have put in the provision about consultation with the Police Council. I cannot very well add any more to that.

Various hon. Members have put forward their points of view with regard to different aspects of the scheme. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) reminded us of the position of widows. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) asked for a specific assurance from me with regard to the powers of the Bill. The hon. Member for Westbury put forward three points, one with regard to pensions, one on the basis on which the scale of pay should be assessed for purposes of retirement, and one with regard to transfer and the service which should be taken into account in the event of transfer. The hon. Gentlemen who advanced those points of view will agree that they were put forward not with a view to obtaining from me a final answer as to the Government's attitude, but to remind the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland which matters were of concern to individual Members, in the hope that when the regulations came to be framed, those matters would be satisfactorily dealt with. Obviously at this stage I could not give a final answer to those points.

Major Bruce

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman undertake that they will be considered?

The Solicitor-General

They will certainly be considered. I was going to say that the scheme embodied in the White Paper must certainly not be regarded as the last word. In all these matters, the regulations, before being laid before the House, will have been the subject of detailed discussion with the Police Council, and it may well emerge that in certain aspects of the scheme it will be found that changes are desirable. If so, those changes will be made and the House will have an opportunity to consider them. That is the only answer I can give to those reminders.

The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames asked a question with regard to the actual powers under this Bill, and mentioned the reference, made during a previous stage of the discussions of this Bill, to the date July, 1951. That reference appertains to the position of widows under the National Insurance Act, 1946. The hon. Gentleman will have observed that under the terms of Clause 1 (6), it is provided that nothing in the Bill affects the provisions of the National Insurance Act, 1946. The period was three years, from July, 1948, when the regulations will be made, until July, 1951, that being the period during which the contributions have to be made for there to be entitlement. At the same time, as the hon. Gentleman felt, under Clause 2 there is power to deal with the position of widows straightaway in July. The question is, therefore, what change should be made with regard to the position of widows independently of the provisions of the National Insurance Act, 1946. The power is certainly there, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen will be reassured by that.

To go over all the arguments that have been advanced on general matters of principle would not be helpful to the House. It would also not be helpful to go over the general matters of detail, because my answers would in the nature of things have to be entirely provisional. However, I would say that the scheme in the White Paper is to a large extent provisional. It will be further considered. There will be further consultations in detail on all the matters which have been referred to during the Debate. In those circumstances, I hope that, when the regulations are finally placed before the House, they will secure universal acceptance. Although I had not the privilege of taking part in the detailed discussions, I am told that the Debates have been marked by a spirit of helpfulness from all sides of the House. I believe that we have greatly improved the Bill, and I express, on behalf of the Government, their gratitude for the assistance they have been afforded from all sides of the House in the formulation of these provisions. I hope that the Bill may now be given a Third Reading.

12.58 p.m.

Sir Jocelyn Lucas (Portsmouth, South)

I want to raise the subject of a widow of a police officer who remarries and whose second husband dies. By remarrying, she has lost the right to her police widow's pension. She may marry an old pensioner or some man in poor circumstances. As her pension is so small she has to work. If she goes as housekeeper to an old pensioner, or some elderly man, it is quite likely that she will marry him to regularise the position. Then she has lost her pension, and although I believe that the Home Secretary has the power to restore it, she has not the absolute right to get it back again. It would appear that that is a direct deterrent to remarriage and, from the point of view of the public funds, the more widows who remarry, the better, because that saves money. However, women like security, and if they think that by remarrying they lose the right to pension again if the second husband dies, they may think twice about it. When the proper time comes, will the Minister have a look at that point?

1.0 p.m.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

May I ask the Solicitor-General one question? He has dealt quite fairly with the question of the advantage and disadvantage of proceeding by regulation, as set out in the Bill. He has also paid tribute, as has every other hon. Member who has spoken, to the way in which this problem has been tackled. It is perfectly clear that the entire House wishes to treat the Police Force in a special manner as regards any regulations or new legislation governing their conditions which may have to be introduced. In view of the hon. and learned Gentleman's agreement that the problem exists, would he say that the position will be examined to see whether it will not be possible to proceed by way of Select Committee when these regulations are to be brought before the House? He has pointed out, quite rightly, that a discussion with the Police Federation—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)


Mr. Orr-Ewing

I am talking about the procedure under the Bill, and whether it would not be possible for the hon. And learned Gentleman to consider proceeding under the system of Select Committee, which would carry on the discussion beyond that—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That certainly is outside the scope of the Bill.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Then, Sir, I will limit the remainder of my question to this: if he is not satisfied, after a time, that he is getting sufficient representation of feeling, and sufficient discussion within this House, would he reconsider the matter and report to the House the difficulties under which he has to work?

The Solicitor-General

If I may add two words, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the point made by the hon. Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) is one more suitable for discussion than for answer in this House. It would take detailed answering, and I hope he will be satisfied that it will be considered. With regard to the second point, I have not the slightest doubt that my right hon. Friend will do his best to see that all points of view are represented adequately.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.