HC Deb 23 June 1948 vol 452 cc1485-98

10.10 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Draft Police Pensions Regulations, 1948, a copy of which was presented on 10th June, be approved. The House will remember, from the Debates which took place on the Police Pensions Measure, that it is necessary for the new regulations to come into force at the same time as the National Insurance Act and the other social legislation. These regulations will replace all the existing legislation, except in so far as it applies to pensions already granted to ex-policemen. They cover a considerable range of persons in the police force—regulars, the police reserves and a number of other categories—and, read together with the 1948 Act, they will apply a comprehensive code. It is because they cover many categories of people that they are rather lengthy and to some extent complicated. In general, they follow the White Paper which was published when the Bill was introduced, subject to certain additions to meet undertakings given during the passage of the Measure.

Members will recollect that under the Act there is to be consultation with the Police Council before regulations are made. That has been observed, and where the recommendations of the Council have been unanimous, these recommendations have been incorporated in these regulations. Where they were not unanimous, and where they raised issues of principle, my right hon. Friend has not attempted to prejudge the issue by determining it himself, but has thought it better to leave the issue over for full consideration by the Committee, which, as the House knows, was appointed under the chairmanship of Lord Oaksey to examine the whole field of police pay and pensions. In those cases the provisions of the existing law have been maintained, but that does not mean that they are not still open for discussion; they will undoubtedly be examined in detail by the Committee. A number of safeguards were put into the Act to safeguard the position of serving members of the Police Force, and they were put in at the wish of the House. Naturally, in bringing forward these regulations, all these safeguards have been fully brought into effect.

I will sketch a broad outline of the scope of these regulations. Part I describes the scope of the regulations, the classes which are to get pensions, the circumstances under which they are to get them, which authority is to pay them and so on, and the subsequent parts deal with all these issues in greater detail. Part II relates to retirement and disablement, and leaves ordinary pensions for long service and ill-health broadly unchanged, subject to necessary adjustments for the pensions of new entrants when they qualify to receive pensions at 60 or 65 under the National Insurance scheme. Reductions, in that event, are made, but at the biggest rate of reduction it still leaves the pensioner better off than he is under existing police pensions law. The combined pensions which he will receive—the reduced police pension and benefits under the National Insurance scheme—always total more than the police pension which he now receives under the existing law.

There is only one regulation in Part II to which I need refer specially, and that is Regulation 7, which deals with supplemental pension for a policeman injured on duty. Under the present law there are two scales of special pension—the so-called accidental and non-accidental. This matter was referred to the Committee of the Police Council, which unanimously recommended that the two scales should be replaced by one scale lying, in amount, almost midway between the two scales. This new scale will be found in the first schedule and Part IV of that schedule. There are certain other adjustments necessary in respect of a man injured on duty, which have to be made to take account of the National Insurance Industrial Injuries Act, the benefits of which will be available in future to members of Police Forces.

Part III deals with awards on death, that is to say, to widows and children and dependants, and by Regulation 18—this is a matter to which the House attached particular importance at the time of the Debates on the Bill—there are increases over existing widows' pensions. Also, the so-called pre-1918 widows, who have no pension, are brought in for the first time in pursuance of the undertaking given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The pensions for existing widows will be brought up to 26s. where the widow's position is substantially the same as one whose pension under the Contributory Pensions Act is being increased under the new scheme. In general, the effect is that widows will get what they would have had if their husbands, police officers, had been insured under the Contributory Pensions scheme. They will further benefit from the single-scale special pensions to which I have already referred, because the family only get a special pension if the death of the police officer was non-accidental, that is to say, was subject to the higher rate. Now they will get it in all cases where death results from injuries on duty.

Part IV sets out the service which is to count for calculating pension, and there is not much change in that. Part V relates to contributions and, again, there is little change, except that adjustments are made corresponding to the adjustments in the value of the pension to take account of the National Insurance and Industrial Injuries schemes. This is one of the matters on which the Police Council were not unanimous, and it will be for examination by the Committee on Conditions of Service. The remaining Parts, VI to X, have very few alterations of substance from the existing law. There was only one point of controversy which, again, was not agreed by the Council, and that was Part IX, which related to the ages for compulsory retirement. Proposals were put up for higher ages and some for lower ages, and my right hon. Friend thought it best to leave this matter over for the time being.

I do not think I should take up the time of the House in going through this lengthy and detailed scheme. Already there have been a number of meetings of the Police Council to consider details and there has been a wide measure of agreement. There have been issues on which no agreement has been reached, but I suggest to the House that it is best that outstanding issues should be thrashed out with the general problems of police conditions. As the House knows, the appointment of the Committee examining that matter was brought forward, and has begun work earlier than it had been originally intended. I hope the House will agree that these controversial issues should be left in that way. Subject to that, the House will find this a satisfactory code which shows a measure of improvement over the existing law. Therefore, it is proper that these regulations should be approved to come into force on 5th July.

10.21 p.m.

Mr. Grimston (Westbury)

I have one or two points to raise on the draft regulations, I do not know whether we are to discuss the Scottish regulations separately, but my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) is going to raise one or two points which may be peculiar to Scotland. It will be remembered that when we were discussing the Police Pensions Bill recently, we secured a provision that the rights of all those who were already in the Police Force on the appointed day should be safeguarded in the Bill. In so far as they touch upon the points and carry through that undertaking, we welcome these regulations. There are one or two other points to which I wish to refer, but I should add that what the Under-Secretary has said about various matters being left over for considering afresh has somewhat modified my attitude towards the regulations.

The first point I want to mention is one which cropped up during the passage of the Bill. It is that whereas the present members of the Police Force can opt whether they continue to contribute for the full police pension and also draw full benefits under the new National Insurance Scheme, entrants who come into the Force after these regulations come into operation will not have that option. They will only be allowed to take the lower police pension after the age of 65. It is true it will give them a slight advantage, but they will not be given the option of taking the full police pension plus full benefits under the National Insurance Scheme. Representations have been made to me that those rights should still be offered in full to new entrants, and I very much hope that this is one of the matters left over for consideration by the Committee.

The second point I want to make is in regard to the complexity of the provisions governing widows' pensions. Here I hope we shall get some information from whoever answers on behalf of the Government. It will be remembered that after the Second Reading of the Police Pensions Bill a very strong feeling was expressed by police forces up and down the country, about their conditions of pension being embodied in an Act of Parliament and there was considerable apprehension that their pension provisions would come in the future under regulations which could be altered at the most by affirmative Resolution of the House. The Home Secretary met that point to a large extent by putting on the Statute Book that which it was originally intended should be done by regulations.

Bearing that in mind, I want to come to the question of provisions for widows' pensions under these regulations. If I am wrong in the view that I am putting forward, I hope I shall be corrected. I imagine that when a man joins a police force, he wishes to know with as much certainty as possible what his pension and his widow's pension will be. If the House will refer to page 40 they will see a scale of pensions laid down there, the ordinary pensions for widows. If I read the scale aright, for an ordinary constable the widow's ordinary pension will be at the rate of 11s. 6d. a week. That appears to be all that the constable will know for certain about what his widow will get. It is true that a larger pension may be awarded, but that is left to the discretion of the police authority. I feel that the 11s. 6d. is too low and that the basic figure of which the widow should be assured should be higher. If we read on we shall find that the most that can be got in the way of extra allowance for children is 5s. 5d. a week.

This matter needs to be looked at further, bearing in mind the background which I have sketched, that the police want to know as far as possible the pensions that they and their dependants will get and that as little as possible shall be left to discretion. That is why such a display of feeling took place on the part of police forces when the Bill was introduced. I must be frank and say that I think the provisions relating to widows are most complicated and that it is extremely difficult to find out to what the widows will be entitled.

There are one or two other points, not of such importance, which I wish to raise. One is with regard to the special pension for widows. I take it that the most a widow could be awarded would be one-third of the constable's pay at the time of his death. I think that in the case of Police Constable Edgar that was the award that was made. There is provision that in certain circumstances a widow may be given a gratuity instead of a pension. It is true that her consent would have to be obtained for that course to be taken. In what circumstances is it envisaged that the police authority could offer a gratuity in lieu of a pension? Under Regulation 33A no service before the age of 20 is to be counted as pensionable. This point has been raised before. I find it difficult to understand why service before that age should not be reckonable and I should like to hear something about it.

There is a further very small drafting point. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at page 37, at the bottom, and at Part III, paragraph 2, he will see reference to: a person, who immediately before he retired and was granted a pension, was paying contribution at the rate specified in paragraph Regulation 42. The right hon. Gentleman will see a printer's error there. It should read "Regulation 41,"because Regulation 42 refers to cancellation, revision and reduction of pensions. The error should be corrected in the final draft. The same thing occurs on the next page, where the reference to Regulation 42 is obviously a printer's error and should be corrected.

I do not wish to detain the House now, because I am very glad to learn that these regulations are not to be regarded as final. I agree with the Under-Secretary that they are an improvement, but when we have regard to the fact that the police forces up and down the country are under strength, particularly in the Metropolitan Police Force, I do not be lieve these regulations go far enough to attract recruits. But, as the hon. Gentleman said, the whole of service conditions are being discussed. I hope that as a result of these discussions we may see further improvement of these regulations. It is not our intention to do other than make our comments, and I shall be glad in due course to have a reply to the points I have raised.

10.32 p.m.

Mrs. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)

I had hoped that the Under-Secretary would have detailed some of the differences that have arisen on these regulations with the police themselves. I know that Lord Oaksey's Committee is still dealing with the question of these regulations, of additions and alterations to them, but perhaps if the Under-Secretary had given us more detail of the very important differences that still exist, I might not have had to make the various comments I propose to make this evening. The police themselves are very thankful for the tremendous improvements that have been made in regard to pensions and pensionable service in these regulations, but there are one or two matters which they consider are of major importance and require further detailed consideration.

First of all, I would like to refer to the comment made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) on the fact that service for pensions counts only from the age of 20. If a man joins the force at 19, his pension does not start to count until he is 20 years old, unless he has an accident and receives a pension for injuries. The position is that a man who has been recruited at 19 has exactly the same sort of work to do and is given exactly the same responsibilities as a man at 20. Those of us who have been interested in the question of the very meagre arrangements made in the past are very concerned to know how that arrangement is arrived at, how it is possible that a man joining the force at 19 is given complete responsibility and has to serve 12 months for nothing, so far as pension is concerned, and only has his 12 months counted if he is unlucky enough to have an accident. That has given concern to the Police Force generally.

I wish next to refer to page 16 and to the question of ex-Police War Reserve. This body as defined in the paragraph is allowed to count war service as service for pension. Service in the Armed Forces of the Crown should also count as approved service for pension. In the majority of instances it was not a matter of choice whether a man joined the Armed Forces or the Police War Reserve. Men who wanted to join the Police Force and were directed into the Armed Forces now find themselves in the position of having three years' less pensionable service than men directed into the Police War Reserve. The men feel that, because they had no option and were directed into either the War Reserve or the Forces, the same conditions for pension should apply to both. Then there is the case of men who are now joining the Police Service from the Palestine Police, who are allowed to count their service in that force for pay purposes. For example, one man may have served in the Palestine Police, and another in the Armed Forces of the Crown in Palestine, both performing similar duties. The Palestine Police was a semi-military body, Men who served, in these two bodies in Palestine are now coming into the police forces of this country on two different scales of pay. That is another matter about which the police are concerned, and it is one which I think should be looked into further.

Then there is the very important question of the police having, after 5th July, to contribute to the new National Health Service at the rate of 4s. 11d. weekly. A man who, as a police recruit, receives wages of £5 5s. 0d. a week, has a reduction of 55. 3d. made from his earnings for pension purposes, and on top of that, after 5th July, there will be a further deduction of 45, 11d. It is a very important matter. These men earning £5. 5s. 0d. a week are going to have a deduction of 10s. 2d. a week made for pension purposes generally. But the position is even worse than that, because a policeman is never unemployed. Therefore, he is never in a position to draw unemployment pay, and the 2s. which is credited for the purpose of unemployment pay has to be paid by the policeman during the whole of his service, though at no time can he draw any benefit for that 2s.

Those of us on Watch Committees who have been considering this matter feel that something ought to be done about that. It is awkward, at the moment, to get recruits for the police forces, and if the men coming in on a wage of £5 5s. 0d. a week find that they are compelled to pay 10s. 2d. a week—part of this going to the Police Pension Fund and the other part to the State fund, some of the benefits of which he cannot draw from the State bcause he will not be unemployed—then that is making the position even more difficult in regard to recruiting. There is the further question that the police are entitled to sickness pay as police officers, and they cannot draw from both the police and the State funds. If they are sick and are off duty, although they have to contribute and make this weekly payment of 10s. 2d., they cannot draw both the State sickness benefit and benefit from the local authorities. That again, is a question which is giving concern to the police generally. I understand that there have been discussions on this matter, and that there has been no agreement, although suggestions were made whereby this difficulty would have been overcome. It has been suggested that the superannuation contribution of 5 per cent. might be reduced to 3 per cent., because of the duplication of payment and the fact that the police officers cannot draw benefit from both funds, although they are bound by regulation and by their service to pay to both funds.

Then there is the section on compulsory retirement, which appears on page 24, in paragraph (1) of Regulation 54. The point is the difference between the time when men in the Metropolitan Police are allowed to retire, and the age-limit which applies to men in the local authorities' forces. The men in these latter forces are feeling that, because of the better conditions which are being suggested for the police in the London area, recruiting in the London area will be faster, and will consequently be detrimental to recruiting to the police forces of the local, authorities. Nobody can suggest that places where there are big dock areas, such as Liverpool, are easy areas for the police; duties there are very exacting, and the duties of the Metropolitan Police cannot be much heavier. The suggestion that the retirement age, which is going to be earlier in the Metropolitan area, should cover the whole of the country instead of differentiating between London and the local authority police, should be considered.

I think that that covers the questions which the police themselves are considering; they are anxious not to hinder the progress of the regulations which will improve their conditions, but they think there are a number of items which should be taken into consideration. I am certain that, had the Under-Secretary given an indication that these features, where there has been great dissension in the discussions with reference to the regulations, were under review, and if he had given the assurance that these things on which we have not been able to agree were not forgotten all concerned would have been happier. There is complete disagreement between the Home Office, on the one hand, and the local authorities, on the other, on some points, and I hope that we shall have the assurance that these will be considered carefully and will be the subject of a detailed report.

10.42 p.m.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

It is so seldom that I find myself even in partial agreement with the hon. Lady who has just sat down that I feel I really must get up and say how glad I am, personally, that she did put some of these points which are concerning the minds of the police at the present time. I shall not attempt to enlarge on any of those points except that of unemployment benefit because, unless a policeman is sacked he is not really very likely to take the benefits. On the other points which she brought in, I hope that the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary will go into these very carefully because it is only right that we should, when dealing with the police forces today—forces which render such great service to the community and are suffering under the grave difficulty of shortage of manpower—do everything we can to make their position as easy as possible. Therefore, in the few remaining words which I will permit myself, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to do better than he is doing in these regulations. I hope that he will recognise that, on this side of the House at any rate, there is a feeling that we should get a little bit closer to the difficulties of the police than we have done at the present time. I would just like to say how glad I am to see that the Home Secretary is in one of his more receptive moods at the present time.

10.45 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

I should like to thank those who have taken part in this discussion for the interest they have shown in the welfare of the police force, an interest which I share, and I can assure them that I am exceedingly anxious that as quickly as possible, all these outstanding points shall be dealt with and embodied in regulations that will be presented to the House by positive Resolution as these present regulations are presented tonight. It is, of course, essential that there should be a body of regulations in existence by 5th July. That is why these regulations have been laid at the present time and why I am asking the House to confirm them tonight.

I think they carry out all the precise pledges I gave during the passage of the Police Pensions Bill through the House. Where agreement has been reached on the Police Council, whom I am bound to consult with regard to them, I have embodied the agreement in the regulations. But there are some matters, including those which have been mentioned by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) and the hon. Lady the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock) on which it has not been possible to arrive at agreement on the Police Council.

This might have led to a prolonged delay but for the fact that the Committee under Lord Oaksey, appointed a few weeks ago, is now charged with the duty of considering all these matters, and I have no doubt that where there is a difference, the Police Council, or one or other of the bodies representing serving policemen, and the local authorities or possibly the Home Office, will be able to submit to the Oaksey Committee their various, points of view and we shall get the advantage of the recommendation of the Oaksey Committee with regard to them. I have no doubt that in a good many cases we shall be able to regard that as a suitable arbitration on these matters which otherwise, in some cases in the past, had dragged on for years and years without its being possible to get the two parties into agreement.

I cannot please on some of these matters both the hon. Member for Westbury and the hon. Lady the Member for the Exchange Division. The hon. Gentleman wants to see everybody granted the right to full duplication if desired. The hon. Lady has pointed out what that will involve for some of the recruits to the Police Force at five guineas a week. It would mean them having a very considerable deduction from their pay.

Mr. Grimston

May I say I only asked for the option; whether they wish to do that or not.

Mr. Ede

That is a point upon which I shall seek the guidance of the Oaksey Committee.

When we come to the question of unemployment pay, I could not recommend that the police should be exempt from paying their contributions. After all, if we are to have universality, it must include the police as well as other people. One cannot run a scheme of insurance if one excludes all the best lives. Here is a body of men who are assured from the very nature of their employment that they are not going to suffer unemployment. That makes them very good lives from the point of view of the unemployment part of the scheme. Just as at least no honest person insures against fire in the hope that he is going to have a fire—

Mrs. Braddock

What I was going to say was, I do not think that there is a grumble about paying. This is only a pointer to the position. The difficulty is that the person who is employed only pays 45. 11d. a week to cover all the benefits. But the police will be bound under these regulations, unless there is some alteration, with the possibility of obtaining benefit, to pay 10s. 3d. a week, and it is the difficulty there to which we have to draw attention, for they just cannot manage. There are points here where the men are entitled to take a point of view on the matter.

Mr. Ede

I am not saying that the men are not entitled to take a point of view, but equally I am entitled to take a point of view, and I am trying to explain to the House one other reason that will have to be taken into account by whoever finally adjudicates upon this matter.

The House, I know, is very interested in the circumstances of the police. It is anxious that everything shall be done that will make the Police Service one that is very attractive to the right type of man, and I am quite certain myself that the steady rise in social security in one form or another over the whole of the community has removed from the Police Force some of the attractions which their greater security had in the past, when large numbers of people were faced with great difficulties which are now covered by the various social insurance schemes. If we are to get the fullest recruiting I am quite certain that the Oaksey Committee will have to look at other things than social insurance to effect the necessary increase in recruitment; but it will be wrong of me this evening to do more, while the Committee are considering their proposals, than to say that I am awaiting their decisions with anxiety, because I do desire to make the position of every policeman with regard to his own service, and with regard to the possibilities for his widow, should he unfortunately die while in the service, quite certain for him and I have every reason to believe that the Oaksey Committee are well aware of the urgency of this matter.

I do not put these regulations forward this evening, and my hon. Friend has not done so, other than as interim regulations which have to be put in at this particular stage because of the near approach of 5th July. I hope that as soon as possible, I shall be able to present fresh regulations to the House which will meet most of the points that have been raised tonight, and that they will be the considered view of my Department after getting the benefit of the advice of the Oaksey Committee, and I would not like it to be thought that anything I have said tonight indicates an unwillingness on my part to consider any of these details when the Oaksey Committee have had an opportunity of making recommendations upon them.

Resolved: That the Draft Police Pensions Regulations, 1948, a copy which was presented on 10th June, be approved.