HC Deb 14 November 1956 vol 560 cc954-79

Order for Second Reading read.

3.32 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I can assure the House that I shall be brief. As the House will observe, this Bill is very short, and I do not think that it will take me long to explain what lies behind it.

The object of the Bill is to remove a defect in the existing law—a defect which is common to the statutes governing the pay and allowances of the police forces, fire brigades and the probation service in England and Wales and in Scotland. Those statutes provide that the Secretary of State may make regulations or rules prescribing the rates of pay and allowances of members of those services. They do not, however, provide that such regulations or rules may be made with retrospective effect, and for some years now it has been the accepted interpretation of the law that, in the absence of an express provision in the parent Statute to that effect, subordinate legislation may not purport to operate retrospectively.

Consequently, it has not been possible to back-date awards of pay to members of those three services which I have just mentioned. In other fields of employment pay agreements or awards nowadays not uncommonly provide for a measure of retrospection in appropriate cases, but if there is a case for back-dating an increase of pay either to the police forces, or the fire or probation services, similar action is not possible because, under the existing law, there is no power to give effect to an agreement or an award from a date earlier than that on which the relevant statutory instrument is made.

The Bill seeks to put an end to that unsatisfactory position. I feel sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House will be in general agreement that this Measure is desirable and necessary. Negotiations are often protracted, and for this and other reasons it is sometimes right and proper that an increase of pay should be brought into force from a date earlier than that on which an agreement is reached or an arbitral award made. There is no need for me to dwell at length on the events which have led up to the introduction of the Bill, but the House may like me to recall them very briefly.

In October, 1946, the Select Committee on Statutory Rules and Orders called attention to certain Statutory Instruments which purported to have retrospective effect although the parent Statute contained no express provision authorising this to be done. The Committee said that this was an improper use of the regulating-making power. Since then it has been the policy of successive Governments not to make Statutory Instruments with retrospective effect in the absence of express statutory authority.

It has been recognised that this has operated to the disadvantage of members of those services whose pay is prescribed in regulations, and—let the House remember this—who had previously been granted retrospective pay awards from time to time. In December, 1955, the arbitrators appointed by the Prime Minister awarded an increase of pay to the federated ranks of the police. This increase was given effect forthwith. In May, 1956, the arbitrators made a further award, recommending that the increases brought into force in December, 1955, should be backdated to 8th September, 1955. This award called attention to the need for some amending provision.

The Government gave urgent consideration to the matter and, as I announced in the House on 12th July, they decided to introduce legislation as soon as practicable to enable pay awards to have effect from such date as might be agreed in negotiation or be recommended in consequence of arbitration. That statement was confined to police pay awards, but the Government have thought it right that the change in the law for which the Bill provides should apply not only to the police, but to the members of two other services within the province of the Home Office and the Scottish Home Department whose pay is also prescribed by Statutory Instrument and is negotiated under similar arrangements. The Bill accordingly applies to the police, fire and probation services.

In July, it still remained to consider whether the legislation which the Government had undertaken to introduce should provide for this change to have effect only in the future, or whether it should be so drafted that effect could be given to the arbitrators' recommendation that the police pay award of December, 1955, should be back-dated. Many hon. Members had indicated that they thought it right that power should be taken to enable that award to be implemented, although there was room for an alternative view that the limitations of the existing law were known to all parties when the original award was made.

Contrary to suggestions made at that time, the local police authorities, whose representatives form a large majority of the official side of the negotiating body, had not expressed themselves as being in favour of this proposal, and the Government, quite rightly, I think, did not think it right to take a final decision on the point until they had had the opportunity of discussing the matter with the local police authorities who, after all, pay the police and on whom half the cost of implementing the recommendation would fall.

After consulting the police authorities, the Government decided that the Bill should be so drafted as to enable the December award to be back-dated, and this has been done. It has been possible to embody in a very short Bill the legislation which is required for these purposes. All that it is necessary for the Bill to do is to provide, first, that regulations made under the relevant Acts prescribing the rates of pay and allowances of members of police forces, members of fire brigades or probation officers in England and Wales and in Scotland may be made with retrospective effect to a specified date; and, secondly, that such regulations or rules may be made with retrospective effect to a date not earlier than 8th September, 1955.

The House will observe that the Bill provides that reductions, as opposed to increases, in pay or allowances shall not operate retrospectively. The Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland since, as the House knows, the pay and allowances of these services in Northern Ireland are matters within the jurisdiction of the Government of Northern Ireland.

This short Bill will take up little space in the Statute Book, and it should not, I would hope, occupy a great deal of parliamentary time. But it will, I am sure, do much to facilitate the smooth working of the negotiating machinery for the three services to which it applies. Furthermore, it will remove a sense of injustice, a feeling that members of those services are handicapped in their pay negotiations. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House, many of whom have already expressed their sympathy with the object of the Bill, will unite in giving it a speedy passage.

3.44 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

I am pleased that the Home Secretary gave some account of the history behind this Bill and reminded us of the steps taken in December, 1955, and in May and July this year. This history is of interest to anyone concerned with the way in which parliamentary government works. There was considerable pressure on the Government from all quarters of the House. The Government had a bad case to argue. It may be, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned, that the Government were in a difficult position on one point because, after all, they were much concerned with the attitude of local police authorities who would have to foot the major part of the Bill.

The fact remains that the Bill has been a triumph of the House over the Government. Those who think, quite rightly, of the declining power of Parliament against Governments of whatever type welcome the Bill as an example of what can be done when there is a real sense of injustice and when hon. Members in all quarters of the House take up the matter.

There are bound to be other groups who will ask for similar legislation, but that, of course, is outside the scope of this Bill. I can say that since the sense of injustice which hampered the negotiations is now being removed, this Bill will be welcomed by policemen, firemen and probation officers and by all the many hon. Members who championed their cause. I thank the Home Secretary for introducing the Bill.

3.46 p.m.

Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)

I agree with the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) who said that all hon. Members had desired to see this Bill introduced. We are all very pleased about it. However, I do not agree that the Government resisted the proposal in any way at all. As soon as they were made aware of the wishes of hon. Members they appeared to be very anxious indeed to meet those wishes.

My right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary referred to the history of the arbitration award. I do not think there is any need to go over that history again. I am certain that hon. Members on both sides of the House felt that the award should be able to be back-dated. There was a sense of injustice in the police force owing to the inability to get it back-dated. I know that during the last 12 months recruiting to the police force has much improved and I am sure that anything which contributes to the improvement of conditions in the force must greatly assist in attracting further recruits.

We are all aware that there is still a shortage of police manpower in the country. In my own town, Croydon, and in the area which the Croydon police cover, about 49 square miles, there is a shortage of 120 people in the force. In the matter of recruiting, I am sure that the Bill is going to do a great deal of good. All of us are great admirers of the work undertaken in this country by the police and not one of us would wish them to feel any sense of injustice whatsoever.

On an earlier occasion, one right hon. Gentleman opposite said that there would be no need to delay the Bill when it came before the House. This afternoon is an obvious instance of that. The Bill can go through in a matter of minutes because all of us are in agreement with it.

It is very pleasant to see a Bill come before the House on which there is no argument on either side and which everyone supports. It is a very important Measure as far as the police forces are concerned and I am sure that it will be welcomed by them. I hope the Bill will do something to close the gap in recruitment. It is a step in the right direction and I am very grateful to my right hon. and gallant Friend for bringing it forward this afternoon.

3.50 p.m.

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

I should like to join in the appreciation of this short Bill. Perhaps one of the most difficult things to do is to remedy injustices, and the police forces of the country, particularly the one in my area, did express a sense of frustration at the fact that no retrospective payment as a result of the award which had been agreed was to be made. When negotiating machinery is established which allows disputes to go to arbitration, the process takes time, and if there is no retrospective payment following discussion and agreement, those who are hoping for an increase feel very frustrated indeed.

The Bill has become necessary because the Oaksey Committee made recommendations with reference to arbitration machinery in arranging for and making regulations regarding police pay, whereas in the past police pay had been decided by the Home Office without negotiation and there was, accordingly, no need for any regulation or Bill about retrospective pay; once it was decided, there was no way of arguing about it or disputing it. As the use of negotiating machinery is extended, if it is necessary in other directions apart from the police, fire and probation officers—and I think that there have been and are still times when Departments can make arrangements about increases without negotiation—this matter should be looked at at the same time as increases are being considered, because there would then be a saving of time and we should, if the whole job were done at once, avoid the upset and frustration which is felt.

There is not a great deal which may be said about the Bill, because there is no argument about it. There is, however, just one thing I wish to put to the Home Secretary. When this matter first arose in the House after the decision had been taken about what was to be paid, many policemen said to themselves, "We are soon going on our holidays, and we shall have a little extra pay to use on our holidays during the summer." That was denied to them. Can the Government Secretary expedite this Bill through all its stages in this House and in another place so that the Home Secretary, through his Department, and the local authorities will be able to ensure that policemen will have the payment in time for Christmas? They have put that to me quite definitely, and that is the feeling they want me to express.

I hope that when the Home Secretary replies to the debate on this non-controversial Bill, which is very necessary indeed, he will be able to give the House an assurance that its passage will in no way be held up so as to prevent policemen receiving the retrospective pay before the Christmas holidays.

3.53 p.m.

Mr. H. R. Spence (Aberdeenshire, West)

For a number of years now I have been a member of the Statutory Instruments Committee to which the Home Secretary referred when commending this Bill to the House. It is our duty, in that Committee, to scrutinise all Statutory Rules and Orders, not to consider their merits but to consider their legality. One of the terms of reference under which we work is that legislation shall not be retrospective.

We have seen in the past, and we appreciate, the difficulty which does arise when negotiations on wage claims are concluded and a settlement takes place; there is inevitably a lapse of time between the reaching of the settlement and the publication of the Order. I am sure that all members of the Committee welcome this new legislation. We shall look forward to the process of the House of Commons varying our terms of reference in due course so that we, for our part, will be able to add our approval to that now being given by the House this afternoon.

3.56 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

The House is aware of my personal position in relation to the Police Federation. Perhaps I may be allowed to say how proud I am to have been able to give the Federation consultation, advice and help over the past 18 months. I hope that the association between us has been of benefit to everybody, not least to the Home Office as well as to the police service.

The police very much desire to take fullest advantage of, and work properly, this machinery of negotiation and arbitration, and to benefit from the recommendations of the Oaksey Committee. It is the sincere and strong desire of all those in the police forces that at all times this machinery should be used to the full. I have made it clear to the Federation in all I have ever said that the position of the police will be strongest if they rely upon this machinery and do not expect to have to come to Parliament in order to have their grievances put right, and that it must be the aim of everyone to ensure that recourse to Parliament is the last thing to happen, not the first.

Looking back over this series of events which started on 8th November, 1955, just over a year ago, I think it can fairly be said for the Police Federation that it exhausted every constitutional opportunity and right given to it under the machinery. It was only when that machinery had been exhausted, and the Federation thought that there was still a grievance which ought to be aired, that it sought the assistance of Members of Parliament. I hope the Federation will continue to do that, and will use its own machinery to the full.

It is my hope that, during the period in which I may be associated with the Federation, this machinery will be built up and consolidated into such an impregnable position that it will command such respect on both sides, on the part of the employers, the local authorities and the Home Office on the one hand, and on the part of the police themselves on the other, that there will be no disposition to bring disputes to the House of Commons any more than the Civil Service brings its disputes to the House of Commons. That is what we must aim at.

The situation demands something from both sides. It demands forbearance from the police and a realisation that they cannot expect to have grievances publicly aired. It also demands something from the Home Office. I ask the Home Secretary to believe me when I say that I put this to him in the interests of the service as a whole. The situation demands from the Home Office a basic understanding of how these problems of administration and man-management should be handled. One simply cannot take an administrative official in the Home Office, push him into a job like this, which means looking after the affairs of 70,000 men, without experience, and hope that he will be able to become a first-class administrative officer. He may, but the odds are that he will not.

What this job needs is not brilliance of intellect on the official side. It requires human sympathy, integrity and understanding. These qualities have been developed, if I may say so, in the Treasury on the establishment side where Civil Service matters are handled through the National Whitley Council. There has been built up a team of officers who have been especially trained to handle these problems.

I put it to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that if this machinery is to work well, and is to be responsive and useful, then, in the Home Office, also, the officers concerned in handling these matters must be trained and selected with the same care. A similar cadre must be built up there as has been built up in the Civil Service.

I should like to congratulate the Home Secretary on introducing the first Bill in this new Session. This morning he addressed the annual conference of the Police Federation, and several hundred policemen there greeted him vociferously when he said that he was going to introduce the first Bill in the new Session. That is not to suggest, of course, that the two events were related, but I know that he had a splendid reception this morning because he was able to say that. I congratulate him upon the interest he has shown and the speed with which he has acted in this matter. It has undoubtedly—I will not say restored the faith—emphasised and encouraged the faith the police service has in this new machinery which has been established. Policemen feel that they can rely upon it to produce results.

I shall not touch on all the points which have been made, but I should like to make one or two references to what has been said. The Home Secretary told us that the local authorities were not in favour, or, at least, did not express themselves as being in favour, of this back pay. There has been much negotiation on this and I should not be entitled to quote from anything private, but I think I am entitled to quote from what has been made public in the matter of the arbitration awards.

Let me remind the Home Secretary that the attitude of the local authorities was interpreted by the arbitrator as long ago as 14th December, 1955. The arbitrator said of the official side: The official side, however, expressed their sympathy, which we share, towards some measure of retrospective operation being given to any increase in pay awarded. There are words after that which do not affect the point. If local authorities now, or at some stage in recent months, have indicated that they are not in favour of retrospection they certainly did not give that impression to the arbitrator last December.

Major Lloyd-George

I can explain those two points to the hon. Gentleman. As to the question of retrospection relating to future dates, there was no dispute on that even in July when I made the suggestion of legislation. As to retrospective payment to September last year, I had to reserve the position on 12th July. I said I could not possibly undertake that until I had consulted the local authorities.

Mr. Callaghan

I quite agree with the Home Secretary. The Association of Municipal Corporations indicated recently that it was not very enthusiastic.

Major Lloyd-George

There are two different points. On one the hon. Gentleman is quite right. On the second, I could not have given an undertaking in July until I had approached the local authorities.

Mr. Callaghan

I quite appreciate that. The view of the official side, as interpreted by the arbitrator, who had an opportunity of listening to it for two days, is that they were in favour last December of some back pay being given. It is as well to get that on the record.

I should like to emphasise three points. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) has taken up the point which has been put to many of us that in a number of forces it takes about five weeks between agreement being come to and turning out the result. That will bring us very near to Christmas. Does the Home Secretary not think that it would be possible informally to have a word with the authorities to ensure that the police get this pay before Christmas? It is due from 8th September, and will be of great help to them. Secondly, will he confirm that officers who were in post on 8th September but have subsequently retired will be included in the back pay award? I believe I am right in saying that superintendents have had back pay awarded to them on a previous occasion. No doubt it will be the desire of the Home Secretary to do so.

Thirdly, I am grateful to the Home Secretary for including fire brigade and probation officers. He and I have had private conversations about this and I have always expressed my view that they ought to come in. It is common form in all these negotiations. We are trying, as a House of Commons, to put right something that has been wrong in the services because of a technical difficulty. I thank the Home Secretary for the speed with which he has introduced the Bill.

4.5 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)

We do the Bill an injustice by describing it as a little Measure that can be hurried through without spending much time on its provisions. It raises two very important points to which the House might very well give serious consideration.

We cannot consider the first one without being clear that the Home Secretary does not employ police. They are employed, in the main, by the local authorities. The whole basis of our police system rests on the fact that there is no one centrally controlled uniformed police in this country. There are local commissions which take into account matters of recruitment and the way in which police officers in various parts of the land are employed.

The employers were called in to discuss the salary awards. The Home Secretary is an employing party of part of the police force, and some time ago this controversial and difficult matter arose which the Bill is now sorting out. It can do no harm if I follow what was said by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) about the attitude of the local authorities, the official side, in this matter.

They took the view that the limitation imposed by the Statute, or by a recent interpretation of the Statute, on the capacity of a negotiating body to give a retrospective award, was well known to both sides. They therefore felt that as it was known to both sides it was taken account of by both sides, and they assumed from that that whatever changes might be envisaged by Parliament in the future no change could be made which would affect this particular award.

I disagree with the local authorities in coming to that conclusion. It was always my hope that the local authorities would be ready to make whatever concessions might be called for from them to make a Bill of this sort possible. Nevertheless, they took the view, and so far as I know still take the view, that the award should not be brought within the compass of the Bill.

I want to make it clear that the local authorities are wholeheartedly and unitedly of the opinion that in all future salary negotiations for the police retrospective provisions should be introduced, as is the case with the employees of many other services. They also take the view that there is very often delay and difficulty in our procedure for dealing with a salary award of this kind by regulation, and that some of the delay might be avoided if we used machinery like the Whitley Council, with which the local authorities are very familiar in many other spheres. I do not think that they desire that the point should be unduly pressed but it is, nevertheless, in their minds.

The second important consideration that the Bill raises is that the police are, by the nature of their service, not in the same position as some other bodies or employees in that they cannot withdraw their services in desperation at the very last, when everything else fails. The power to do so is there, as it is everywhere else, but the police have no desire that it should ever be used and I do not think that it has ever entered into their calculations. Neither is it in their minds that they should always be able to use pressure upon Members of Parliament to secure an end that ordinary negotiation has failed to secure for them.

I was a little troubled to hear the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) suggest that in some ways it was a good thing that it had happened in this case because it gave a certain éclat to back bench Parliamentary activity that the police had been able to bring this final machine into operation when everything else had failed. In point of fact it was only when the attention of Parliament was drawn, in the ordinary way, to a frustration of the law which everyone knew ought to be altered, and should have been altered some years ago, that the Government laid themselves open to representation from Members of both sides and that we have the Bill.

The Bill is necessary and good in its own right. It will, as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) said, add to the feeling among members of police forces that they enjoy their proper esteem in the country. That will add to the attractions of the service and be reflected in future recruiting. I very much hope so. I join in the congratulations to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary upon having introduced the Bill so early in the Session. I hope that it will have a very speedy passage through all its stages.

4.10 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

If what the Home Secretary said this afternoon, when moving the Second Reading of the Bill, is correct, I am at a loss to understand why it was necessary for so many police officers to make such strong representations to so many hon. Members.

Mr. Callaghan

We would not have got the Bill, otherwise.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I very much doubt whether this Bill would have been introduced at this time if it were not for the pressure which, in a sense unfortunately, had to be brought to bear through hon. Members on to the Home Secretary.

It was no use saying that our police are wonderful and then treating them less favourably than other sections of the civilian population. They are civilians and that gives them a respect and status which exceeds that of any other police force in the world. They voluntarily accept a higher degree of discipline and forgo privileges, which I need not mention, because they are members of a police force.

As was rightly pointed out in a communication I received from one of them: One cannot help feeling that as the police are loyal, and do not talk of strikes, the Government are treating them in a very offhand manner which would not be tolerated by any other body of employees who had made representations to their trade union. That view was very prevalent throughout the police force, and that makes it all the more important that any kind of discrimination which places the police at a disadvantage compared with other organised workers should be avoided. Even more galling and aggravating was the fact that through a pure technicality the higher ranks of the police force had their pay back-dated to 8th September and the lower ranks could not be given the same concession.

I feel that the Home Secretary was badly advised and rather unreasonably obdurate until police officers all over the country took action and made it inevitable that the matter should be ventilated in this House. It should not be necessary for police officers to be compelled to engage in a nation-wide campaign and to lobby Members of Parliament to secure justice. Legislation was promised as long ago as 1953, and nothing was done about it. The Home Secretary, in his statement of 12th July, was less than candid when he said that he would consult the police authorities to see whether it was possible to make this pay retrospective.

That struck me as very curious because, in a communication sent to all hon. Members, dated 7th July, the Police Federation stated: The local authorities have further said that they are willing to pay the new scales granted by the Arbitrators from 8th September, 1955, if the legal obstacles are removed. Yet the Home Secretary said on 12th July that he was to consult the police authorities. When I asked a Question, on 2nd August, he was still consulting them. In the light of that fact, it does not seem that it was necessary to put forward consultation with the police authorities as a reason for delay in dealing with the matter.

This legislation could have been introduced last Session. However, it has been introduced now and I hope it will help in restoring the good faith and confidence which must exist between the police force, the Government of the day, and the general public. We all know that the efficient administration of law and order depends upon a contented police force whose members are satisfied that they are getting a square deal.

So far as it deals with the question of pay, this Bill gives them the square deal to which they have felt fully entitled for a considerable time. It is a case of "Better late than never." I wish to reiterate the suggestion I made on 25th October, to which I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) refer, that everything should be done to get the Bill through in time for the retrospective pay to be given to lower ranks before Christmas.

4.17 p.m.

Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isleworth)

Not for the first time in this House have we listened to the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Col. Lipton) talking of something he knows nothing about. We are quite used to him getting up, opening his mouth and putting his foot in it.

It is nonsense to talk about the police being discriminated against or treated unfairly. This position has arisen because the police are paid under Acts of Parliament. If they experience difficulties over retrospective pay compared with other classes of employees that is because other employees—such as building operatives—have national joint councils and their pay agreements can be implemented at once.

That implementation does not have to be laid down in regulations. It is nonsense to talk about discrimination and unfair treatment of the police because it is laid down in regulations that these increases cannot operate retrospectively. In practice, regulations are a great protection.

I have a position in relation to the Fire Service which is similar to the position of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in relation to the Police Federation. I have been the spokesman for fire brigade officers for a great many years, ever since the war. I have sat on the National Joint Council for local authority fire brigades ever since 1947, and on the body which preceded it during the lifetime of the National Fire Service.

The attitude of the Fire Service officers is that they like regulations and do not want them to be abolished. I hope that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will take notice of that. In the last year or two there has been a movement in local authorities to dispense with regulations altogether. I wish to tell my hon. Friend that that does not suit the senior ranks of the Fire Service. I am not sure about the position of the firemen. They are organised by the Fire Brigades Union and, during the time that they had a Communist secretary, there was an unholy alliance over this matter. That may have changed. They may now have seen the light.

Regulations, however, have had a disadvantage—which, I should say is the only disadvantage—in that occasionally there has been a need for a pay rise to be made retrospective and that has not been possible because of the rule about retrospective effect. The attitude of the Fire Service to this Bill is, "About time, too," because we have had this trouble on a number of occasions in the last ten years. Particular difficulties have arisen when arbitration courts have given awards which they wanted to be made retrospective, but which could not be made retrospective because of the regulations. That difficulty will now be removed and the Fire Service is grateful for that.

When a recommendation goes to the Home Secretary or to the Secretary of State for Scotland they will always be left with the final decision. I merely express the hope that there will not be a feeling in the Home Office that because regulations can now be made retrospective there is no need for the Home Office to give urgent consideration to a recommendation from the National Joint Council.

Mr. Callaghan

It could not be any slower.

Mr. Harris

The hon. Member says that they cannot be any slower. I hope that it will not be considered out of place or too unkind to the Home Secretary if I say that things other than remuneration are concerned. Two or three years ago the Home Office considered some sick pay regulations for more than a year before deciding to make regulations on the subject.

Mr. Callaghan

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member. On the last pay claim the Home Office acted extremely promptly in introducing regulations—within a couple of days. What does hold up regulations, and why I said that it could not be slower, is that there are so many elements on the official side, all quarrelling among themselves about what should be offered, that it is difficult to get a clear answer from them.

Mr. Harris

That is quite true. Not only remuneration is affected. I see that in Clause 1 (1, c) there is a reference to Section 17 of the Fire Services Act, 1947, for regulating the remuneration of members of fire brigades. However, that Section regulates a great deal more than remuneration. It relates to conditions of service. In the Fire Service nearly all the conditions of service are laid down in regulations and, inevitably, some conditions of service cannot be made retrospective. For instance, it is very difficult to make sick pay regulations retrospective.

I hope that the Home Office—and I shall not be as unkind as the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East—will give its usual prompt consideration to recommendations which come from joint committees of fire services. I also hope that the employers' side on the National Joint Council, that is to say, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the County Councils' Association, the London County Council and the Scottish local authority associations, will not now feel that, because retrospection can be given, there is no need for prompt consideration to be given to claims coming from the employees' side.

Finally, I want to ask the Home Secretary whether he is satisfied that the police, fire services and probation officers are the only people who will be affected and the only people to have their pay laid down in regulations. I think that teachers in Scotland also have their pay laid down in regulations. No doubt that is a matter which the Home Secretary can study. If there are other people, I hope that regulations to govern their conditions will be included in the Bill. I join with other hon. Members in wishing the Bill a speedy passage.

4.22 p.m.

Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)

No doubt the Home Secretary is feeling that he would prefer to have a little less congratulation and to get the Second Reading of the Bill, but I wish to detain the House for a few moments, not in any representative sense, or as a member of any negotiating body involved in these discussions, to say how much I appreciate the fact that he has decided to include in the Bill provision affecting probation officers.

Those of us who know the work of the Probation Service have been very worried by two things. As the scope of the work increases, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain the qualifications of the people being recruited for the Service. It would have been deplorable had the Bill made these arrangements for the police and fire brigades, who are very powerfully and effectively advised, as we know, while the Probation Service had been omitted, because the Probation Service already suffers discrimination in salary grades in comparison with the police and certainly in comparison with some local authority welfare services, which to some extent draw upon the same kind of people for recruits.

The greater the flexibility in fixing remuneration and the back-dating of remuneration—as in the teaching service, for example—the greater the ease with which people can be recruited to the Probation Service—although that is not the only problem involved. I hope that the fact that the Home Secretary has included probation officers in the Bill is an indication that he is fully aware of the very great importance of the work they do, work which is in no way less important than that of the teachers or of the local authority welfare services. The probation officer is in a position of very great responsibility as a confidential adviser of the magistrates. His work is exacting and his hours long. It is most important that he should not feel that he is in any way regarded as not being a major part of the social services and a major part of the judicial services.

The fact that probation officers are included in the Bill, although it will not meet the whole of the difficulty—it is not pretended that it will—to some extent indicates the intentions of the Home Office. I hope—I put it no stronger than that—to see that in financial matters probation officers are treated as fairly as members of those other services with whom they are working in co-operation and with whom, to some extent; they have the same kind of training and the same kind of experience. I most warmly welcome the fact that they have been included and I hope that the Bill will pass very quickly through all its stages and soon reach the Statute Book.

4.26 p.m.

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)

Very briefly, I should like to add my thanks to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary for introducing the Bill. Particularly worthy of commendation is the fact that we have it so early in the Session. It seems likely to be through the House this week. That is speed, indeed. My right hon. and gallant Friend referred to the unsatisfactory position which existed on this legal technicality, a technicality which had a great effect upon peoples' lives and happiness. We shall have done a good job today in helping to get rid of that technicality.

Like many hon. Members on both sides of the House, I was very pleased to see in the Home Secretary's announcement on 12th July that he was considering retrospection. Today, there has been a very happy conclusion to that announcement. I was very glad that my right hon. and gallant Friend referred to the fact that the Bill is affecting not only the principle of retrospection, but a specific example of retrospection in the pay award dating back to 8th September of last year. It will not only clear up that particular problem, but deal with any similar problem which may arise in the future.

My right hon. and gallant Friend said that this is a small Bill, but size is no indication of its worth and the beneficial effect to so many people. The three groups of people affected by the Bill, the police, fire services and probation officers, are all doing a job of work without which we could not happily exist. They are doing a job of work vital to our lives and to the country's order. As individual Members we can be pleased that we are doing something to assist the functions carried out by those services.

It has been rightly observed that the removal of the technicality about retrospection will be of great assistance to the negotiating machinery and will allow negotiation on pay to take place in a much freer atmosphere. The Bill confers regulation-making powers on my right hon. and gallant Friend. All hon. Members have expressed the hope that the Bill will go through the House speedily and I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend to see that the regulations are laid quickly so that the Bill is implemented in all respects by Christmas.

I end as I began, by thanking my right hon. and gallant Friend for bringing the Bill forward so quickly. It is always pleasant to see a Bill receiving commendation from all sides of the House and I hope the Bill will have that beneficial effect on all those affected by it which we hope it will have.

4.30 p.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton Itchen)

Both an immediate grievance and a wider issue of principle are tackled in the Bill and I congratulate the Home Secretary not only in bringing forward a Bill which deals with the general principle of retrospection in wage awards, but on his promise to implement the Bill and to deal with this immediate grievance of the police.

I should like also to congratulate hon. Members of the House, many of whom played an active part in calling the attention of the Home Secretary to the sense of injustice under which the police had suffered. I refer particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) and also to hundreds of hon. Members, on both sides, who signed a Motion on this matter in the last Session.

I was impressed by the dignified and careful way in which policemen came to see me and stated their grievances. They have nothing for which to apologise in coming to see their Member of Parliament. Being in the police does not deprive them of the privileges of British citizens and anything that the police did in their campaign they were doing quite rightly as British citizens in calling the attention of their Members of Parliament to something which they thought to be wrong.

The whole House will welcome this delayed act of justice to the police forces. The urgent need for it arose from a specific injury which was done to the police by the law of the land this year. The police made a wage claim in July and an almost ridiculous counter offer was made by the official side. In November, it went to arbitration. In December, the arbitrators made an award. I would say, in passing, that the Home Secretary acted speedily on the arbitration award and carried it out almost within a few hours. That award, however, could not be backdated to any time during the long period of negotiations, all because of a defect in the Police Act, 1919, which successive Governments had looked at and thought of putting right.

The moral case of the police was unanswerable. Certainly, everybody in this House, the arbitrators and, indeed, the official side, thought that the wage award should be back-dated. The arbitrators, be it remembered, had awarded the police double the amount which the official side had offered at the beginning of the negotiations. During the conversations, it seemed clear that the official side was wholeheartedly in favour of the general principle of back-dating, even if it had doubts as to whether the principle of back-dating could be applied to this particular wage award.

When we debated the matter in the House during the summer, the arbitrators' report was quoted—it has been mentioned again today. It said: The Official Side expressed its sympathy, which we shared, towards some measure of retrospective operation being given to any increase in pay awarded. If I understood the Home Secretary aright, the only difference between us is a matter of interpretation as to whether it was that particular award that was meant, or merely future awards.

The Bill, therefore, corrects a specific wrong. Incidentally, it gives us an opportunity of paying tribute to a great police force, a tribute not in words but in deeds. Let us remember that these policemen are deprived of some of the privileges of ordinary citizens. They are deprived by law of some of the basic freedoms of other workers, in that they are forbidden to join trade unions and they are not allowed to strike. The least we can do is to ensure that their hands are not unnecessarily tied by law when negotiating wage claims.

The Bill does the same for the Fire Service, a very efficient and loyal body of men. I am quite certain that the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris), who spoke on behalf of the fire officers, while he was probably having a bit of fun at the expense of the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades' Union—who, we are all glad to see, has freed himself from the Stalinest group in this country; I think he will be the better trade unionist for it—agrees that the Fire Service is not only efficient, but very loyal.

Mr. Callaghan

I should like to say that I have acted throughout this matter in conjunction with Mr. John Horner, of the Fire Brigades' Union, who has known exactly what has been going on, but that until the Bill was on the stocks I did not hear a word from the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris).

Mr. R. Harris

Except that I put a Motion on the Order Paper.

Mr. Callaghan

Yes, the hon. Member tabled a Motion.

Dr. King

I am glad that tribute has been paid to the probation officers, who are brought within the ambit of the Bill. It has been my privilege for twenty or thirty years to work intimately with the probation officers of Southampton in dealing with many problems of delinquents and their children and I want to pay tribute to the work that they do. I am glad that their position is being put right.

When the Bill becomes law, I think that there will be only one group of public servants who are statute-barred from ever having pay awards back-dated: that is, the teaching profession. I wish that the Bill had been drawn widely enough by the Government to apply this principle, which we all accept now as far as most State employees are concerned, to all public servants. I would express the hope that the Minister of Education will look at the Home Secretary's Bill and see whether he cannot discuss with those responsible—the local authorities, on the one hand, and the teaching profession, on the other hand, to see whether this anomaly may not be removed from the teaching profession, as this afternoon we are removing it from three other distinguished professions.

4.36 p.m.

Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)

I shall detain the House for only one minute to associate myself with the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) about probation officers. Recorders and lay magistrates do not always find themselves in agreement. Today they do, and all those who are associated with the work of the criminal courts readily recognise the wonderful work performed in the administration of justice by the Probation Service. It is a vital social service and a powerful force of reclamation.

It is quite true that the Bill will not render the Probation Service any immediate financial benefit, but I entirely agree with the observations of the Home Secretary that by helping to ensure the smooth working of negotiating machinery the Bill will, in the long run, benefit that section of the community, the probation officers, whose work we cannot commend too highly in this House.

4.37 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. J. Henderson Stewart)

It is a pleasure to be associated with the introduction of a Measure which is so universally welcomed throughout the House, and I should like to thank hon. Members, in all parts, for the generous reception they have given it. It obviously represents the general view of the House of Commons.

We hope that, so far as this House is concerned, the Bill will pass through all its stages and that, so far as the Government generally are concerned, sufficient progress will have been made to enable the back pay to be available by Christmas. Other bodies are, of course, involved, but for our part we shall do the best we possibly can.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

By Hogmanay in Scotland.

Mr. Stewart

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) spoke of the value of the Bill on the recruiting of policemen. I am sure he is right about that. I trust that it will have a good effect and that policemen generally will feel that we have done the right thing and that potential recruits will feel that the police is a service well worth joining.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), naturally, had to make his contribution to the debate, and I have no doubt that he feels a special measure of satisfaction that the Bill is now where it is. I should, however, say—and this is an answer also to his hon.

and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton)—that he would not be quite right to suggest, nor is it correct to leave unchallenged on the record, that unless there had been great pressure from the two hon. Members there would not have been this Bill. That simply is not true, as is proved by the facts.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, who made a very pleasant speech, as I hoped he would, was, I think, a little tough and quite unfair to the members of the Home Office and the Scottish Home Department. The hon. Member now has to deal with the Scottish Home Department as well as with the Home Office. It is certainly for me to say that these two Departments, here and in Scotland, are fully alive to their responsibilities for the police and these other services, and I do not think that any suggestion that the staffing arrangements are inadequate is justified.

Mr. Callaghan

May I give the Joint Under-Secretary one example of what I am complaining about? On 12th July, the Home Secretary made a statement which indicated that the Government were giving favourable consideration to what was being done. From that moment until 28th September last, a period of over two months, not a word passed from the Home Office—I am not complaining about the Scottish Home Department—to the Police Federation about the results of that discussion, how they were proceeding or what was happening. It is this lack of what I regard as thoughtful-ness in these matters that creates an atmosphere which is quite unnecessary and which could be removed with a little imagination and a little human understanding of what the other man may be thinking about.

Mr. Stewart

I am sure that the hon. Member knows very well the explanation for that period. My right hon. Friend's statement indicated that he and his colleagues had to think about this. It took some time to work this out, because it is not so easy as would perhaps appear. I think we have been speedy about this matter. If what the hon. Member means is that we might have sent out some interim statement or something like that, perhaps there is something to be said for it. We note all these suggestions which he makes, and we are anxious to move along in harmony with the Police Federation and the other bodies with which we are concerned.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) raised a point, which I think was also raised by one other hon. Member, as to whether it was wise to maintain the requirements that the pay and allowances of the members of these three services should be prescribed in regulations and rules. He suggested that perhaps the time has come to change that system. If it were changed, it would then be open to the authorities to act upon a recommendation of the negotiating body that an increase should operate from a specied date. I think that was rather what my hon. Friend meant. I suggest to him that that would not be a good thing to press at this time.

The purpose of this Bill is, by the speediest and simplest may possible, to enable members of these three services to enjoy the benefits of retrospection in suitable cases. I am sure that object would not be so easily obtained if an element of controversy were introduced. As one or two hon. Members have already said, any proposal to remove pay and allowances from the ambit of regulations would certainly give rise to acute differences of opinion. I think that the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) raised that point and that he is perfectly right about it.

The hon. Member for Heston and Iselworth paid tribute to the fire service, and I was glad that he did, and he spoke about the prompt consideration which had been given to this matter here. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and the hon. Member for Itchen (Dr. King) spoke properly about the value and importance of the probation officers. I am very glad that they did so, because these are services of the first order.

Mr. Callaghan

Can the Joint Under-Secretary give us any indication or confirmation that these officers who have subsequently retired but who were in post at the operative time will benefit?

Mr. Stewart

The answer is definitely yes. I was saying in winding-up that one trusts—I think that we all trust—that this Measure, taken together with the arbitrators award to the police in December, 1955, will bring satisfaction to the members of these three services, will increase the good will that exists between them, the community and the Government and will stimulate recruiting all round. I feel sure that I speak for the whole House when I take this opportunity of paying an unqualified tribute to the magnificent work which the men and women of these three services perform to the nation.

Dr. King

The hon. Gentleman's attention has been called as Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland this afternoon to the fact that teacher's salaries are fixed by regulation in Scotland. Will he bear in mind that equal pay came to Scottish teachers three months after it came to English teachers, just because of the very principle we have been discussing? Will his Department go into that question?

Mr. Stewart

That is a matter for a Bill dealing with teachers. I should be out of order if I said anything about it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Legh.]

Committee To-morrow.