HC Deb 23 June 1948 vol 452 cc1499-510

10.55 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser)

I beg to move, That the Draft Police Pensions (Scotland) Regulations, 1948, a copy of which was presented on 10th June, be approved. These regulations are exactly similar to the regulations that have just been approved, except that there are three that are peculiar to Scotland. I do not think that I need weary the House by going over much of the ground that my hon. Friend covered in dealing with the first set of regulations, but perhaps I should make a brief reference to the three that are peculiar to Scotland.

Regulation 33 is required because the rank of lieutenant is being replaced by the rank of chief inspector. The regulation safeguards the pension rights of widows and children of lieutenants who have retired before 5th July, and of existing holders of that rank who retire or die after that date while holding the rank of chief inspector. Regulation 41 gives members of the Orkney and Zetland Police Forces who are still serving on 5th July an option of counting as approved service all their whole-time noncontributory service prior to the dates on which the Police Acts were applied to these counties, providing always that they pay to the police authority the appropriate contributions in respect of that service. I should mention that the Police Acts were applied to Orkney on 15th January, 1938, and to Shetland on 29th May, 1940. Regulation 42 gives police-women in Glasgow who are serving on 5th July, and who were attested in 1924 after a period of unattested service, an option similar to that given to those policemen in Orkney and Shetland.

10.58 p.m.

Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)

I think I am right in saying that this is the first time that matters such as those in these regulations have been dealt with in this way. Previously they have been dealt with by legislation passed through Parliament in the usual way. When we legislate by Act of Parliament more attention is called to the matters at issue, and I hope that these regulations will be given the fullest possible publicity so that they may be well known. We on this side do not welcome regulations in the place of statutory enactments, but in so far as these regulations improve the lot of the police we welcome them very much indeed. I was glad to hear the Under-Secretary allude to the provisions in regard to members of the police forces in Orkney and Shetland, and also the provisions applicable to certain policewomen in Glasgow which bring them within the scope of the pensions. I also welcome the power given to the police authorities to increase the pensions of existing police widows.

There is one rather quaint thing upon which I should like an explanation. In the regulations for England and Wales provision is made regarding members of overseas police forces, but no such provisions are made in the regulations which apply to Scotland. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will say a word about that. My hon. Friend who spoke on the previous set of regulations referred to the case of the officer who was killed in the performance of his duty, and the provision which is made for the wife of such an officer. That takes the mind of everyone in the House back to the case of P.C. Edgar. In Scotland we admire very much the devotion to duty which is always shown by our police officers, and we feel that when these men are killed in the execution of their duty, there should be the most ample provision for their widows and children. In the case to which I have referred it was found necessary to supplement P.C. Edgar's pension from police funds, that is, from outside funds. I do not think that is right. Appropriate provision should be made so that these widows receive a full and adequate pension without having to call on any outside fund whatever.

There are one or two other anomalies to which I would draw attention. Under Regulation 53 it is laid down that every gratuity payable shall be paid in one sum, provided that where a police authority are satisfied that it would be to the advantage of the beneficiary to pay in instalments, they may do so, and in such reasonable amounts and over such a reasonable period as they think fit. That is a reasonable regulation and no one would take objection to it, but Regulation 21 says that where a gratuity becomes payable to a widow under these regulations, then, if she subsequently remarries, so much of the gratuity as has not been paid before her remarriage is not paid unless and until she becomes a widow. Presumably that will mean that no widow will ever be able to get a gratuity in one sum however justifiable such a course may be in relation to her circumstances at the time when she claimed a gratuity. I think that that should be looked into. If the widow's circumstances are such that it would be to her benefit to receive a gratuity in one sum, then I believe it should be paid to her and should not be held over.

There is another matter which I think really wants clarifying: at any rate, I should like to be enlightened about it. It is concerned with Regulation 34, which provides that a policewoman shall not be entitled to reckon as pensionable service any period during which she is on unpaid maternity leave. That seems to envisage paid maternity leave. If such a thing exists, what is the period of it and what are the terms and conditions on which unpaid maternity leave can be obtained?

In Regulation 44, where an ill-health pension is to be paid, the police authority may consider: … at such intervals as they may in their discretion think proper whether his disability has ceased. Then, under Regulation 49, medical questions are referred to a duly qualified medical practitioner selected by the police authorities. I would like to know whether the practice is to be that these questions are to be referred to the police surgeon? I have the greatest confidence in those officers but at the same time it might be more reasonable if they were referred to someone who had no official status in a police force.

The last point I would like to deal with is one concerning Regulation 66, which deals with interpretations. It states that any reference in the regulations to a rank in the home police forces shall in relation to a member of an overseas corps be construed as reference to such rank in that corps as the Secretary of State may from time to time direct. What I would like to know is, what are the factors which determine the alterations from time to time and what procedure will be adopted to bring such changes to the notice of those concerned? We hope that these regulations will be generally for the benefit of the police and if that be so, then we warmly welcome them.

11.5 p.m.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)

I recognise, of course, that these are draft police pensions regulations which, as the Home Secretary emphasised in dealing with the English set of regulations, are of an interim nature, in order to prepare for 5th July. However, there are one or two points on which I should like some clarification.

Paragraph 14 deals with a widow's special pension, where a man dies as the result of an injury received in the execution of his duty as a member of a police force, and under paragraph 12 a regular policeman is one: who is entitled to reckon three years' pensionable service. Does that three years' condition in paragraph 12 apply in such cases as, for example, where a policeman on duty is killed, or injured and subsequently dies, in his first or second year's service? Does the widow not get the pension merely because her husband did not happen to have completed three years' pensionable service? In the Debate on the previous regulations the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock) mentioned the question of the age of 20, and I think she was perfectly right, if I may say so. I have never been able to understand why a fellow of 19 who does his duty should not be just as well treated as if he were 20. Also, does the same provision apply to paragraph 23, dealing with children's special allowances, as applies to paragraph 12?

Paragraph 15, which deals with gratuities in lieu of pensions, is a matter which interests a great number of people. Could this grant of a gratuity instead of a pension be made as a part gratuity and the balance to remain as a pension? Must it be a complete gratuity? Must it be a commuted pension in toto, or could it be partly a gratuity—to enable a woman to set up in a small shop or business with £1,000, or whatever the sum may be—with the balance paid as a small pension? Can it be part pension and part gratuity?

Paragraph 17, dealing with the date of payment of award, says: where her husband was in receipt of a pension and he dies during a period in respect of which he has already received his pension the widow's pension shall be payable at the end of that period. If he were drawing his pension on a weekly basis I cannot see that there could be any objection to that; but it is possible that he might be drawing it on a monthly or even longer basis, in which case what will the widow live on until the end of that period, when she begins to draw the pension? A little cash, particularly in the case of a death, is often very essential in a family of very small means, and I should like to know whether that is intended. If the period for drawing the pension is longer than a weekly period is there any chance of the widow getting some money earlier than, for instance the end of the month? My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok Division of Glasgow (Commander Galbraith) has already dealt with subparagraph (b), where the husband has received a gratuity. It is one year maximum; it must not be longer than a year before the widow gets the gratuity paid; but it is possible that the gratuity of her husband might all have been spent before his death, in which case it seems to me that she may be in very difficult circumstances, because delays in payment by Government Departments are not unknown—although I would not suggest they are intentional. That is a point on which we ought to be clear.

Paragraph 21 concerns the termination of the widow's pension or gratuity in the event of her re-marriage. I wonder if that is quite fair. I have the feeling that that gratuity has been earned, and if she is happy enough to be re-married, is it really the right thing to say that that payment is to cease? I do not quite like it myself, and I do not really think it is reasonable. I am wondering whether it is really the intention of the Government to proceed with it, because it seems to me to be a little hardhearted, to say the least of it. The gratuity and pension will not be very great, and by re-marriage the widow will not probably become very rich; and as her first husband will have earned by his good service that pension for her, she ought to be allowed to continue to receive it, even if she does happen to marry again. I should rather like answers to these questions.

11.11 p.m.

Mr. C. Williams

It will be remembered by some hon. Members here that only yesterday I was severely reprimanded by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury for not knowing everything about all the matters going on in Scotland. Therefore, I should like, in case I am questioned on the matter, to ask for some further explanation of paragraph 41. This paragraph applies to the Police Force in the Orkneys. I should like to know approximately how many men are concerned in it. I should also like to know how it is we have this separate police force for that part of the country. Those are two questions which I feel sure the hon. Member opposite will be only too glad to answer for the benefit of those of us on this side of the Border. I have a further question with regard to paragraph 41 (2, b). It will be noticed that it speaks of the "appropriate pension contribution," and it states that that means a contribution equal to 2½ per cent. of a man's pay up to 1926 and 5 per cent. afterwards. I should like to know for certain what proportion of the police were in service before 1926 and after, and what proportion are being paid 2½ per cent. and what proportion 5 per cent.? I imagine most of them, but it is a simple question, and I think it is only right that I should have this information about those matters.

The fourth question I should like to ask arises out of paragraph 42. I admit that on this matter I am ignorant. That paragraph refers to policewomen in Glasgow only. There may be—I am sure there is—a good reason for that, but I think I might be told what it is, because I may be under examination on that point at any time by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who has urged me never to allow any of these matters to pass without my knowing all about them. So the House will know who prompts me to these inquiries tonight.

Further, in paragraph 59 (5) there is reference to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I am glad to see that there is fairly complete co-operation between the police forces in Scotland and the police forces in Northern Ireland. I take it that that is what the paragraph means, and I should like to be confirmed in my opinion. I am glad that under this subparagraph an exchange is possible between the two forces without any loss in contribution as far as pension is concerned. I hope—and I think I am correct it is the same in the English police forces. As the Under-Secretary for the Home Department is possibly more efficient than the Scotch Under-Secretary of State—

Colonel Gomme-Duncan


Mr. Williams

That does not make him any the worse. I wish my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) would not always assume that Scots people are worse than English. That does not necessarily follow. I should like to know for certain that there is a complete scheme for an exchange of members of the police forces of this country with the force in Northern Ireland so that there is an exchange of contributions for pensions, and that members of the Police Force in Northern Ireland will not suffer any disadvantage for coming over here. If I could have an answer to those questions I would feel much safer.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)

I should not have intervened at all but for one point of very great importance which should be cleared up. The point was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) when he advocated that a widow of a policeman in the event of her re-marrying a policeman should be able to continue drawing the pension which she received on the death of her first husband, if he died as a result of an accident or injury received during his duties. If the Government agreed to that and the second husband also met with an accident or injury in the course of his duties, would the hon. and gallant Member ask the Government to award that widow a second pension? That kind of thing could be carried on ad infinitum, and I should like to know from the hon. and gallant Member how many pensions such a lady should receive.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

In reply to the hon. Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Scollan), no doubt he will recall the Scriptures where it says that "the woman died also." I had not in mind the idea that this woman would go on marrying policemen indefinitely, for I had not thought of that. What I was really advocating was that if she remarried, it should not necessarily follow that she forfeits the pension her previous husband earned by his contributions.

11.17 p.m.

Mr. T. Fraser

I am able to speak again only with the permission of the House, but if that permission is forthcoming I will endeavour to answer most of the points if not all that have been raised. This is a complicated matter. I do not think I said it earlier, but I should like to say now that we have had long discussions with the Police Council in Scotland about some of the regulations. As the Home Secretary said in regard to the English Council, we were able to give effect to those proposals on which there was unanimous agreement. Where agreement could not be reached we agreed that the questions should be referred to the Oaksey Committee.

Let me try to answer one or two of the points raised. The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) mentioned the matter of overseas service. He pointed to the fact that there was a provision in the English regulations that did not seem to be repeated in the Scottish regulations. The reason for that is that overseas service will be reckonable under the Scottish regulations in the case of a man who has returned to a Scottish force before retiring. If, however, he retires overseas he will be pensionable under the English regulations. I am afraid that is so even though he went from a Scottish police force to the overseas police force and then retired whilst he was serving with the force overseas. The only justification I can give for that is that it would be inconvenient to have two sets of regulations operating in the countries overseas. So far as I am aware there have been no representations against that system.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman also spoke on the adequacy of widows' pensions and asked whether widows' gratuities were paid in one sum or paid by instalments, which were cut off if she remarried. A widow's gratuity is normally payable in one sum; it is payable in instalments only at the discretion of the police authority.

Commander Galbraith

That applies to the widow as to the man himself?

Mr. Fraser

Yes. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also asked about maternity leave. We do not have maternity leave in Scotland, because we do not at present have any married policewomen. They may have in England, but people do not want them in Scotland. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also asked me about the incapacitated policeman whose incapacity is reassessed by a decision of a medical practitioner; he inquired whether an independent medical referee would be brought in or a decision taken on the advice of the police medical officer. If there is an appeal against a decision, the Secretary of State is required to appoint an independent person or persons. That is contained in paragraph 2 of Regulation 50. The hon. and gallant Gentleman put a question on Regulation 66 (2). Foreign ranks differ from our own and, indeed, from one overseas corps to another, and we must have some provision for equating them should a police officer return to serve with a home force.

I was asked about the position of the widow of a policeman killed on duty. Reference was made to Police Constable Edgar, who unfortunately lost his life recently in London, and to whose widow a special grant was made. These administrative arrangements, of course, will still be open. Hon. Members may deplore that it is necessary from time to time to make special grants in circumstances such as these but I think, when the time comes for making a special grant, most hon. Members would be glad to know that the authorities felt disposed to make it.

Commander Galbraith

I do not think the hon. Gentleman has got my point, which was that this grant was made out of a fund not under the control of the police authority. That is what I understand, though I may be wrong. The grant was made by the Metropolitan and City Police Officers' Fund. They had to come to the aid of the widow by supplementing the pension which she had received by £48 a year for each child. That should not be necessary. It should not be necessary that some outside fund should be brought in to supplement the pension of a widow of an officer killed in the execution of his duty.

Mr. Fraser

We have very considerably improved the provision for widows, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman conceded in the course of his remarks, but the Police Federation would like to have still better provision made. However, no agreement could be reached on this matter at the Police Council. It is one of the matters about which the Police Federation will undoubtedly make representations to the Oaksey Committee, and the Secretary of State will be obliged to give attention to any recommendations that the Committee makes.

I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) asked whether the special pension to be paid to widows was subject to the same three years' qualification as the ordinary widow's pension. I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that there is no minimum service requirement necessary before the special pension is paid. He also asked whether the gratuity could be paid in instalments. I have already said that it can. But he asked, further, whether part gratuity and part pension could be paid over a period. I think that would be impossible, and no such provision is made. Pension and gratuity stand separately. The gratuity is offered, and it is a case of all or nothing. It may be paid in a lump sum or, at the discretion of the police authority, in instalments.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Speaking as an Army pensioner myself, may I point out that I can commute my pension up to a certain amount and draw what the sum involved amounts to for the purpose, say, of starting a business; and at the same time I can continue to draw pension on a lower rate. If that can be done in the Armed Forces, I should have thought that it was equally simple for it to be done in the police forces.

Mr. Fraser

Provision is not made for that at present. But there will be another occasion for making regulations and bringing them before the House. I will personally consider the matter in consultation with my right hon. Friend before we appear at this Box with regulations again.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman also asked about Regulation 17, inquiring whether a widow could have the pension for the period for which the husband has got his payment of pension, notwithstanding the fact that he died inside the period. The widow cannot, of course, if the husband is in receipt of a pension which is paid up to a certain period and he unfortunately dies before the end of the period. But the husband's pension is carried on to the end of the period. I do not think one would like to argue that the two payments should be made in respect of the same period.

The other point which the hon. and gallant Gentleman made was with regard to the widow's pension continuing after re-marriage. We had not contemplated that it would be suggested that the widows' pension should, in fact, continue after she had re-married. I think it is generally appreciated that the pension is paid to enable the widow to live decently after the bread-winner has gone. If she marries again, and has another breadwinner, it seems to me that the need for the pension no longer exists. In any case, if there should be representations along this line, no doubt they will be put to the Committee on Conditions of Service, though I would not think there would be any case for making such special provision.

Commander Galbraith

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, I would be glad if he could give me an answer regarding what is "unpaid maternity leave." He has said that we have not any married women police in Scotland. That may be the case, and I certainly do not wish to dispute it. But, on the other hand, this regulation lays down that they shall not be entitled to count as pensionable service any period during which, being a woman, she was on unpaid maternity leave. I want to know what unpaid maternity leave is. For what period does it exist?

Mr. Fraser

With regard to this provision in Regulation 34, I can only repeat that we do not at present have any married women in the police forces in Scotland, so the question of maternity leave should not normally arise. However, these words have aroused my curiosity. I do not know why they should have got into the regulations; I cannot understand it. But I do not think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would want to prevent the regulations going through. If he will allow me to have the regulations I will look at it, and perhaps will drop him a line about it later on.

Resolved: That the Draft Police Pension (Scot-land) Regulations, 1948, a copy of which was presented on 10th June, be approved.