HC Deb 27 February 1948 vol 447 cc2273-7

(I) Any regulations made under Section one of this Act shall be so framed as to ensure—

  1. (a) that the times at which an existing member of a police force is or may be required under those regulations to retire on the ground of age do not, unless he at any time elects otherwise, differ from those which would have been applicable in his case if those regulations had not come into force; and
  2. (b) that the scale of pensions payable under those regulations to an existing member of a police force who ceases to be a member of that police force either—
    1. (i) after having served for any period prescribed by those regulations; or
    2. (ii) by reason of infirmity of mind or body after having served for any shorter period so prescribed, not being infirmity due to injury received in the execution of his duty,
    is not, unless he elects otherwise within such time and in such manner as may be prescribed in those regulations, less favourable than the scale applicable in his case immediately before the coming into force of those regulations.
In this Subsection, the expression "existing member," in relation to any police force, means a person who is serving in that police force at the date when the regulations in question come into force.

(2) Regulations made under the said Section one shall not be invalid by reason that in fact they do not secure the results specified in the preceding Subsection, but if the Secretary of State is satisfied, or it is held by the High Court or by the Court of Session, that any such regulations have failed to secure those results, the Secretary of State shall so soon as may be make under the said Section one the necessary amending regulations, and any such amending regulations shall have effect as from the date of the coming into force of the regulations which they amend.—[Mr. Younger.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

11.5 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Younger)

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

This Clause has been put down to implement the undertaking given last week that we would try to give some guarantee to members of the Police Forces, now or in future, that their basic conditions would not be worsened by any regulations which might be made. The House will see that the regulations are to be framed so as to ensure that the times at which an existing member of a Police Force may be required to retire on the ground of age shall not differ from those which would have been applicable but for the regulations, unless he elects otherwise. In other words, every member of the Police Force is to have the opportunity of accepting new regulations which affect his rights, or of rejecting them. Under paragraph (b), the same provision is made for the scale of the pensions payable under the regulations, and the scales referred to are given in sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii). In that case also the member of the Police Force has the option; he can elect to accept the new regulations or not.

An important part of the new Clause is the end of Subsection (1), where the term "existing member" is defined. An existing member means not merely a member of the Police Force who is in it at the time when the first regulations are made, but a member of the force who is in the force at the time when any future regulations may be made. Therefore, this is a continuing guarantee, not merely a transitional one for the members who are in the force when the first regulations are made under this Measure. In Subsection (2) a specific remedy is given by way of a decision of the High Court or, in Scotland, the Court of Session, if the regulations are thought not to have met with the requirements in the earlier part of the new Clause.

I would remark, in passing, that this new Clause gives statutory protection to two classes of person mentioned in earlier stages of the Debate: first, those members of the City of London force who had their pre-1921 rights preserved under Section 26 of the 1921 Act. That protection will be carried on by this new Clause. Secondly, the now rather small group of men who were enlisted between 1919 and 1921, and who were anxious that their rights under Section 29 (I, b, i) of the Act of 1921 should be preserved. Under that Section their rights to serve on until they had got their pension were preserved, and I think my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain), on the Second Reading of this Bill, asked that there should be some guarantee given to those men under the new provisions. It was intended at that time that the guarantee should be given in regulations but, now that this new Clause is down, it gives statutory protection in the Bill, which I think is all that they could ask. I hope the House will think that this fully meets the wishes expressed last week and the undertaking given, and that hon. Members will be prepared to accept this new Clause.

Mr. Grimston (Westbury)

It appears to me that this new Clause fully meets the undertaking the Home Secretary gave in Committee. I make no complaint, but it has only appeared this morning, and there has not been a very great deal of time thoroughly to master it. As I see it, the Clause provides that the present pension rights hitherto secured by Act of Parliament to those now serving in the Police Force shall still be secured in the statute. In other words, their present pensions conditions could not be worsened by the regulations which come into force under this Measure. It will have the further provision that new entrants will know that the set of pensions regulations under which they accept service at any time will also be secured to them by statute, inasmuch as they cannot be worsened by subsequent regulations. What will be possible is to modify a condition with the consent of the police officer—in most cases, probably, to better some condition.

It seems to me that this new Clause does what we ask—guarantees to all existing members of the Police Force and future entrants that their pensions cannot fall below the level they accepted when they joined the force. That appears to cover the psychological point we raised, and I think the Home Secretary has been wise in meeting it. I wish to thank him for meeting it in this way. I would like to have an assurance from the Under-Secretary that my interpretation is correct, and that our point has been fully met.

Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)

This new Clause can be defined as an attempt to make the best of a bad job. It certainly meets the point made by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) and others on the Committee stage, in the sense that it gives to existing members of the Police Force the assurance that when the regulations appear they will not worsen their position. To the extent that that is the effect of the Clause, I join with the hon. Member for Westbury in giving my blessing to it.

It still leaves unsettled what I regard as the whole essence of the Debates we have had on the subject, the broad issue whether the main points of a pension scheme should be left to be dealt with by regulation, or whether they should be dealt with in the terms of the Measure itself. I maintain strongly the view that the right place for these conditions is the Measure itself, and not any regulations to be made subsequently, however much the Under-Secretary kindly tries to assure us that the regulations will be all right when they are made. It would be out of Order to pursue that point today, but when we come to a later stage I warn the House that I propose to attack it, because, in my view, it leaves to the discretion of the Minister all kinds of issues which ought to be subject to statutory decisions by this House. I welcome very much the proposal in the Clause so far as it goes, and add my blessing, but when we get to a later stage I shall attack the fundamental defects.

11.15 a.m.

Mr. Perrins (Birmingham, Yardley)

I welcome the new Clause. I raised the matter at some length in Committee, and we received an assurance by my right hon. Friend that any regulation he proposed would have the force of law. That assurance was sufficient for me, and I felt he had gone a good way to meet the point I raised. On reflection, and after reading the new Clause, it seems to me that my right hon. Friend listened with some attention to the points made by other hon. Members and myself and that he has tried to gather the tenor of our opinion and to meet us to the extent of 100 per cent. in this new Clause. We can say without any qualification or ambiguity that he is giving the regulations the force of law, and I welcome the Clause, as it meets the objection I made in Committee.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.