HC Deb 16 March 1955 vol 538 cc1421-8

9.33 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)

I beg to move, That the Draft Police Pensions Regulations, 1955, a copy of which was laid before this House on 3rd March, be approved. Hon. Members will see that there is a further set of Regulations on the Order Paper and it will be necessary for me, in dealing with these Regulations, to refer to the other set. It may be for the convenience of the House if both sets of Regulations are discussed together.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I think it would be for the convenience of the House if the Scottish Regulations were discussed in the same way.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I am not quite sure whether it would be convenient for the Scottish Regulations to be discussed with these.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I meant to say that these two English Regulations could be discussed together and then the two Scottish Regulations could be discussed together.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

Both sets of English Regulations are consequential on the National Insurance Act, 1954. That Act provided for National Insurance benefits to be increased, the increase starting with effect from 25th April next. Those dependants of the police officers who are covered by National Insurance will receive the benefit of those increases in the ordinary way under the National Insurance Act, but the dependants of some police officers are not eligible for National Insurance pensions and allowances.

This state of affairs arises because police officers were excluded from compulsory State insurance before July, 1948, when the National Insurance Act came into force. A considerable number of such officers have not been able, for various reasons, to qualify since July, 1948. The obvious example is that of a man who had already retired then and who may still be living and may continue to live for some considerable time yet.

Such dependants may, however, be eligible for a pension under the Police Regulations either wholly or partly based on the benefits provided by the National Insurance scheme. They do not actually receive National Insurance benefits, nor even benefits by direct reference to the National Insurance scheme. Therefore, when increases are given in National Insurance benefits, they do not automatically apply to the dependants of such police officers.

The purpose of the Regulations is to provide a corresponding increase for those dependants who benefit under the Police Regulations and not under the National Insurance Act. The second set of Regulations does this, and nothing more, for all the existing police pensions affected. It does so by reference to the Police Pensions Regulations of 1949, as amended—and they have been substantially amended four times. The result is necessarily somewhat confusing. I think that all hon. Members would agree that it is desirable in the circumstances that there should be consolidation.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to consolidate the Regulations governing pensions already in issue. That is so because of the statutory safeguards for existing pensioners which are to be found in Sections 2 and 3 of the Police Pensions Act, 1948. It follows that consolidation is possible only for future pensions. The first Regulations apply only to pensions coming into existence on or after 25th April next when the increases in the National Insurance pensions take effect.

Advantage has been taken of the opportunity provided by these amendments to tidy the Regulations generally and in two respects in particular. First, some provisions of the 1949 Regulations are now spent. Those provisions have been omitted.

Secondly, in the working of the Regulations, a number of minor deficiencies and inaccuracies have come to light and these have been corrected. I think that two are mentioned in the explanatory note to the Regulations. I can assure the House that these amendments are all of a minor and technical character. They are numerous, and I do not think that hon. Members would wish me to go into any of them in detail. My right hon. and gallant Friend has consulted the Police Council in accordance with the provisions of the Police Pensions Act, and the Council is in agreement with these Regulations. I think, therefore, that the House will be satisfied that there is nothing in them which is contrary to the interests of those affected.

If there are any particular points which arise or any questions which hon. Members wish to ask I will, if I am given the opportunity, do my best to answer them.

9.41 p.m.

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

I do not wish to refer to the suggested increases and the adjustments, but to obtain some information about medical appeals which are referred to in the Fourth Schedule of the Regulations, in page 49. This relates to the right of a police officer to appeal against the decision by a watch committee, or the responsible police authority, on the advice of the medical officer attached to the police authority, and it is a matter about which there has been some difficulty.

It is not so much that there has been a difficulty about the appeals, but, rather, about the selection by the Home Office of the officer who hears the appeal. In Liverpool, we have commented on this on a number of occasions. We recommended that where a policeman appeals, and the Home Office select a medical officer to hear the appeal, or to ascertain whether the position is as stated by the medical officer attached to the police authority, it would be wise if the person appointed were completely detached from the area from which the policeman comes.

On occasions—I do not say on recent occasions—we have known instances where the medical referee has come from only a few doors away from the officer employed by the police authority. That has sometimes created a difficulty, in that a man who may well have been himself attached to a police authority as a medical adviser may find the decision going against him. Or it might be the other way round, and the appeal is turned down.

I am wondering whether a suggestion which we made, and which has been carried out locally, is being carried out nationally. We suggested that the medical officer selected to hear the appeal should be someone completely detached from the area of the doctor responsible to the police authority.

I do not know whether the Joint Under-Secretary can give me any information about that, or whether there is an instruction to that effect in the Home Office. But in Liverpool it has been accepted that someone away from the area—say, from Manchester—should hear the appeal. I think that the hon. Gentleman should examine this matter to see whether it be wise that in every case of that sort, to ensure complete impartiality, the person appointed should come from asfar away as possible from the local authority concerned.

9.45 p.m

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The Joint Under-Secretary has given us a very lucid explanation of a very complicated set of Regulations and of the alterations that are being made. I welcome those which clear up the difficulties that have arisen in the interpretation of the old Regulations, and I can only hope that we have now come to the end of this correction of some of these highly technical matters.

There was a time, of course, when the Police Pensions Act made the police a very attractive Service. Now I fear that is no longer the case, because other legislation has since given other sections of the community advantages which they did not previously enjoy as compared with conditions in the Police Force. It is good to know that these Regulations have been agreed by the Police Council, and I think that we can take it that if the members of the various ranks of the Police Force who are there feel that these are suitable Regulations, the House need have no hesitation in accepting them.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Draft Police Pensions Regulations, 1955, a copy of which was laid before this House on 3rd March, be approved.

Draft Police Pensions (No. 2) Regulations, 1955 [copy presented on 3rd March] approved.—[Sir H. Lucas-Tooth.]

9.47 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Commander T. D. Galbraith)

I beg to move, That the Draft Police Pensions (Scotland) Regulations, 1955, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th March, be approved. I understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it is your wish that the Draft Police Pensions (Scotland) (No. 2) Regulations should be discussed at the same time and that I might move them immediately following. The present Regulations consolidate the Police Pensions (Scotland) Regulations, and, indeed, carry forward certain Scottish points. These are the points which are contained in Regulations 27, 34 and 35. Regulation 27 deals with the position that arose on the abolition of the rank of lieutenant, and gives to those subsequently appointed the entitlement which applies to chief inspectors, but retaining all the rights of those who were serving as police lieutenants.

Regulation 34 deals with the peculiar situation which arises with regard to Orkney and Shetland, and Regulation 35 deals with the question of unattested service prior to 1924 of policewomen in Glasgow. That means that in respect of these three classes they retain the rights which they had before the Regulations were introduced. Otherwise, these Regulations follow exactly the same course as has already been described by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. Regarding the further Regulations, they also are precisely similar to the English Regulations which the House has just approved.

9.49 p.m.

Mr. James H. Hoy (Leith)

I do not intend to discuss these Regulations which are rather complicated, and I will confine myself to asking the right hon. and gallant Gentleman two questions. The first is with regard to the older type of widow whose pension has not been increased over the years and who finds herself in a rather unenviable position. Do these Regulations bring about any change in the payments made to that type of widow?

Secondly, I wish to know whether there is any alteration in the earnings rule with regard to police constables. I raised this question some time ago with the Department when a retired policeman complained about the fall in the value of money and about the fact that his earning allowances had not been varied in an upward direction. He wanted to know if, when the next Regulations were coming along, something could be done to make it possible for him to earn much more than he was allowed to under the old Regulations. Those are the only two questions I wish to ask, and I shall be obliged if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman can give me a reply.

9.50 p.m.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

I think that we all welcome these Regulations. I know that they have been agreed by those who are most concerned with them, but there are one or two questions which I should like to ask. The Joint Under-Secretary mentioned those Regulations in respect of which changes had been made. He mentioned Regulation 27, which makes provisions consequential upon the abolition of the rank of lieutenant, but in doing so he did not say why it was necessary for it to be incorporated in these Regulations.

Commander Galbraith

It is merely to preserve the rights of those who were dependants of those lieutenants before the grade was changed.

Miss Herbison

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman also mentioned Regulation 34, which made certain provisions with regard to the Orkney and Zetland police forces. It may be that I and my hon. Friends should know why they are in a different position from the rest of the police officers in Scotland, but we do not know, and we should like to be told. Regulation 35 was also mentioned. This refers to the unattested service prior to 1924 of policewomen in Glasgow. Again it may be that I and my hon. Friends should know the position, but we do not know and we should like to have some information about it.

Regulations 9, 11 and 20 were referred to, and we are told that larger discretionary increases in widows' pensions and children's allowances are made by these Regulations. I should like to have a little more information than I can get from studying these Regulations. I want to know what is their real effect and how these larger discretionary allowances will help. Although I do not know a great deal about the matter, I welcome the fact that these allowances are given.

9.53 p.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I should like to ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State two questions relating to Regulation 34. Hesaid that the English Regulations had been accepted and agreed by the associations concerned. Does that apply to Scotland? I believe that the men concerned are those who have been in the police service for so long that in certain cases they were not covered by previous Regulations. My impression is that there are several men who have retired from the police force and have been unable to get a pension. As I understand it, this Regulation will not affect them, but I should be very glad to be told definitely whether it does improve their position in any way.

9.55 p.m.

Commander Galbraith

The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) asked about the older widows' pensions, and whether or not they had been increased. Many of these widows will receive the additional 7s. 6d. In regard to the special case which he raised about earnings, if he will allow me I should like to look into the matter and communicate with him afterwards.

The hon. Lady asked me in regard to Regulations 27, 34, and 35. There is no change in the Regulations from what they were when she was in the Scottish Office. They are purely consolidatory. I mentioned them because they differ from the English Regulations in that they preserve rights which exist in the Scottish Regulations on matters to which the English Regulations do not apply.

So far as Orkney and Shetland are concerned, until 1938 in the case of Orkney, and 1940 in the case of Shetland, the Police Acts did not apply, and therefore it was necessary to bring in something that gave the utmost possible benefit to members of those Forces in the interim period. The Regulations preserve to them the rights that they previously had.

Miss Herbison

I asked about the larger discretionary increases relating to widows' pensions and children's allowances. Could I have information about them?

Commander Galbraith

That is in connection with Regulations 9, 11 and 20. These Regulations merely repeat the existing code. Nothing more nor less. The situation is exactly the same as when the hon. Lady was at the Scottish Office.

Miss Herbison

There is reference in the Explanatory Note to "larger discretionary increases." That is why I questioned the matter.

Commander Galbraith

Perhaps the hon. Lady would like me to go into it fully. Under the existing Regulations police authorities have discretion in certain circumstances to increase a widow's pension by 42s. 6d. a week during the first 13 weeks and 32s. 6d. thereafter or, if no pension is payable, to grant a pension at those rates, which are the current National Insurance rates of widow's allowance and pension. The National Insurance Act, 1954, raises these amounts to 55s. and 40s. The draft Regulations provide for similar increases in the amounts payable under Regulations 9 and 11. I hope that that answers the hon. Lady's question.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Draft Police Pensions (Scotland) Regulations, 1955, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th March, be approved.

Draft Police Pensions (Scotland) (No. 2) Regulations, 1955 [copy presented 8th March] approved.—[Commander Galbraith.]