HC Deb 05 December 1951 vol 494 cc2471-7

7.35 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)

I beg to move, That the Draft Police Pensions Regulations, 1951, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th November, be approved. These draft Regulations consist of three parts. Part I includes Regulations which cover the pension position of policemen who serve in His Majesty's Forces, and they are made under the powers conferred by Section 1 of the Police Pensions Act, 1948, as amended by Section 43 of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Protection of Civil Interests) Act, 1951.

Part II contains Regulations effecting miscellaneous Amendments to the Police Pensions Regulations, 1949. Part III contains Regulations which amend the Police Pensions Regulations, 1948, in so far as those Regulations continue to have effect under a Regulation of the 1949 Regulations, namely, Regulation 88. All the Regulations in Parts II and III are made under the powers conferred by Sections 1 and 3 of the Police Pensions Act, 1948. In accordance with the requirements of the Police Pensions Act, 1948, I have consulted the Police Council, who concur in the making of these Regulations.

I am very anxious to meet the convenience of the House. I could deal with the Regulations in detail at this stage, but there may be certain points right hon. and hon. Gentlemen wish to bring out on the Regulations, which have been laid for some days, and it might be more convenient—I am entirely in the hands of the House—if, having given that brief indication, I hold myself ready to answer any points that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen care to put to me.

7.39 p.m.

Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)

I understand that these are part of the Regulations which will be submitted from time to time, and I should like to put two questions to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. In the preparation of these Regulations, was consideration given to the averaging of pensions? There is a certain amount of dissatisfaction in the police forces of the country about the averaging of pensions over the last three years of service, and I wondered whether detailed consideration had been given to the possibility of some alteration in the system in order to meet the desires of the police.

If a policeman retires shortly after promotion his pension is averaged on his salary over the previous three years; if a policeman is demoted and leaves the force within three years his pension is, again, averaged on his salary of the previous three years. This gives the demoted policeman a higher pension than is given to the promoted policeman, if they both leave at the same time. This is causing a lot of concern.

The Home Secretary said that he had had consultation with the Police Council. He probably knows that there is dissatisfaction at the moment at the attitude adopted by the Association of Municipal Corporations Police Committee. There has not been the assistance from the Committee in relation to these Regulations and police difficulties that there has been in the past. The A.M.C. Police Committee has not given the co-operation or assistance which we should be entitled to expect. It is possible that in the very near future other Regulations in relation to these matters will be laid and there may be another opportunity of commenting about them, but I suggest that, when he is consulting the Police Federation about these matters, the Home Secretary should pay particular attention to the dissatisfaction which exists about the attitude of the A.M.C. Police Committee in relation to police Regulations.

I mention these matters because the right hon. and learned Gentleman may, in the very near future, receive representations from the Police Federation of England and Wales in regard to various matters about which the police are still dissatisfied. The attitude adopted by the ex-Home Secretary and the awarding of salary increases to the various branches of the police forces were very much appreciated, and it is hoped that when Regulations are discussed—there are still a number of matters to be dealt with—they will receive the same support and attention from the present Home Secretary and his Department.

7.42 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I would advise my right hon. and hon. Friends not to take any exception to these Regulations. They deal with some very practical points with which it is necessary to deal so that various police officers shall know exactly where they stand and they make arrangements for adapting the Regulations to the actual needs of the moment in view of other Acts of Parliament which have been passed.

I am sorry to see that there is nothing in the Regulations to deal with the position of the widow of a police officer who is killed by a criminal while carrying out his duties. When I left office, I was having some negotiations with the Treasury on that point, and I am quite certain that, in view of the fairly large number of cases, comparatively speaking, of this kind which have occurred in recent years, public opinion feels that the widow of a man killed in such circumstances is entitled to special consideration. I hope the Home Office will be warm-hearted about this and will not allow the warmth of its own heart to be chilled by the reception that it is sure to get in the Treasury.

7.44 p.m.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

If I may, by leave of the House, speak again, I shall be very pleased to deal with the matters which have been raised. As hon. Members may not have had the opportunity of going into the details, perhaps I might explain the procedure of averaging. The Oaksey Committee, which made recommendations for improved pay for the police force, recommended that a pension should be based in all cases on the average of a man's pay for the three years before retirement. The Police Pensions Regulations, 1949, excepted from this policemen compulsorily retired—I emphasise "compulsorily retired"—on reaching the age limit who were serving in 1921 when the Police Pensions Act, 1921, came into force.

The Act provided that no one serving on that date could be compulsorily retired except on a pension amounting to two-thirds of the actual pay on the date of retirement. This exemption was intended to remain in force only for three years, by which time the Oaksey increases in pay would be reflected in the three years' average.

The Eve Award—that is, the award of the tribunal presided over by Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve, and set up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—

Mr. Ede

It was set up by the Prime Minister of the day.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am sorry; it was set up when the right hon. Gentleman was at the Home Office. If I may put it in that more guarded way I think the House will appreciate what I intended to say. That award has upset this position because it has introduced a new factor. These draft Regulations have, therefore, made this exemption absolute without limit of time; they have changed it from the three years.

Perhaps I may say a word on the suggestion that the exemption from averaging should apply to all pre-1921 men irrespective of the ground of their retirement—that is, that it should not be limited to those who are compulsorily retired by the falling of the age limit, but should be applied generally. That was carfully considered by the right hon. Gentleman, who received several deputations about it, and the draft Regulations now protect for all time the pre-1921 men from having their pensions, when they retire on grounds of age, based on average pay.

The difficulty, which I put to the hon. Lady and which, I think, has been felt by everyone who has considered this matter, is that to do more than that, which, after all, is a considerable step forward, would involve interfering with the settlement laid down by Parliament 30 years ago, which is a difficult thing to do after this lapse of time.

Perhaps I may remind the hon. Lady how the matter arose. After the Desborough Committee made its suggestions after the 1914–18 war, the recommendations as to pay were carried out at once by Regulation but those as to pension had to wait until time could be found for legislation, and it was considered right that the pension provisions should apply to the same people who had benefited by the pay increases already granted. That is why everybody has found it difficult to go back on the settlement, but I hope that what we have done in the present Regulations will go at any rate, some way—I hope, a considerable way—to meet the difficulty.

Mrs. Braddock

I quite understand the difficulties, but would it not be possible to put the police on a similar basis, in relation to pensions, as local government officials, whose pension is paid at the rate of two-thirds of their actual salary when they retire? if a man goes through the force and is promoted, but retires within three years, in the earlier part of which his pay was less than on his retirement, there is some difficulty, and I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there is great concern in the force about this. If municipal officials receive a salary increase, either from promotion or for any other reason, and then retire, they retire on two-thirds of their actual salary on retirement.

There is no question whatever of averaging for any of the corporation officials throughout the country. To me, a sensible way of settling the position is that a person should retire at the rate of his pay when he actually retires. It is not a question of adding up over three years. Either the period has been more than the three years, or it has been less. The solution is, to me, quite simple, and that is the way in which the police throughout the country are looking at the matter. They think that it is unneces- sarily complicated when the method to be adopted could be so much simplified.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for putting that point, and I shall certainly look into the local government provisions and compare them. Frankly, I do not have them all at my finger ends at the moment but I am always willing to look into a point like that. The hon. Lady will appreciate, however, that the recommendations of the Oaksey Committee were, in general, well received and it is a difficult matter after consideration to omit that Regulation.

Mr. Ede

I think that the Secretary of State will find, when investigating the local government position, that there is there a five years' average, as there is for teachers and for most other people in the public service. One of the difficulties that confronted me was that in having only a three years' average, the police were, in fact, better off than the other public servants who, in similar circumstances, would have had to work with a five years' average.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I had been given that information, but I always like, when an analogy is put, to check it. That is the best one can do. I shall certainly do that, but the information that was given to me when the point was raised is the same as the right hon. Gentleman's.

I should like to deal with the second point made by the hon. Lady, who will, I am sure, excuse me from making any criticism of any of the bodies who are on the Police Council, because we want to make that Council work. I should like to repeat here what I said to the Police Federation five weeks ago.

With regard to the point which, I think, the hon. Lady has in mind—that is the creation of a negotiating machinery—I said that I would much rather that a decision was come to, even if it is a decision to differ, so that we could get on to discussing it on the Police Council. I think that that meets the underlying point which the hon. Lady had in mind. I fully recognise, as, I am sure, does the whole House, the work of the right hon. Member for South Shields, to which the hon. Lady referred.

The right hon. Gentleman himself raised the very interesting and important point as to the possibility of augmenting widows' pensions when police are killed by violence, as distinct from accident, in the execution of their duty. The right hon. Gentleman has indicated to the House the course that negotiations must take and I am sure he will appreciate that all I can say at the moment is that I am taking up the burden which he has laid down and that I shall take it up in what I know he considers and I consider the proper way to bear the burden, that is, to carry it as stoutly as one can and make as much progress as is possible. In other words, it is a matter to which I shall give my most careful consideration, bearing in mind what he has said, and see that it is not allowed to be forgotten. I cannot say further than that because, as he has indicated, there are other parties to the negotiation.

I hope I have dealt with the points that have been raised and I should like to thank the hon. Lady and the right hon. Gentleman for raising them and underlining the importance of my giving them full consideration.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether I understood him to mean that he is now in process of negotiating with the Treasury on the point raised by my right hon. Friend the ex-Home Secretary? As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, I am in correspondence with him now about a police inspector and a constable shot on the moors in my constituency in the execution of their duty, and I can tell him from personal experience that the widow of one of them is suffering great hardship. It would help considerably, if something is to be done, if it were done quickly.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I shall take that into account.

Mr. Hall

Thank you.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Draft Police Pensions Regulations, 1951, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th November, be approved.