HC Deb 09 February 1962 vol 653 cc865-76

Order for Second Reading read.

3.23 p.m.

Sir Myer Galpern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

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

The hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), in his admirable speech this morning, characterised his Bill as being somewhat dull.

Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)

No. I said that although other Bills might be dull, mine might be modest, but I hoped not dull in its intention.

Sir M. Galpern

Nevertheless, I would rather label mine as being unexciting but somewhat necessary, and, I hope, useful.

Relations between the Home Department and the Police Federations are harmonious and smooth. The purpose of the Bill is to continue that happy position but to make it more flexible, a desire shared, I understand, by both sides of the House.

As the House knows, the Police Federations, one for England and Wales and one for Scotland, were established by the Police Act, 1919for the purpose of enabling the members of the police forces…to consider and bring to the notice of the police authorities and the Secretary of State all the matters affecting their welfare and efficiency, other than questions of discipline and promotion affecting individuals… The constitutions of the Police Federations were set out in the Schedule to the 1919 Act, as subsequently provided. Paragraph 1 provides that the Federations shall consist of all members of police forces below the rank of superintendent.

The Schedule provides the basis of membership: The members of each police force below the rank of superintendent shall form a Branch of the Federation, and in each Police Force there shall be constituted three Branch Boards—one for constables, one for sergeants and one for inspectors. The boards are elected by the members of the several ranks and they choose delegates to attend the central conference, English or Scottish, for the three ranks. Members of the central conference elect the three central commit- tees, each consisting of six members, for constables, sergeants and inspectors. The branch boards may submit representations to their police authority or chief officer of police, and may also submit any such representations to the Secretary of State, and the central committee may submit representations to the Secretary of State.

I come to the kernel or fundamental basis and purpose of my Bill. As the constitutions of the Police Federations are set out in the Schedule to the Police Act, 1919, they can be amended only by Statute—this is where the difficulty arises—except for the limited power of adaptation to the circumstances of Scotland which is provided for in Section 13 (1). The requirement of legislation before any change can be made is often inconvenient. From time to time changes in the constitutions become desirable as circumstances alter and it is cumbersome if they have to be made by an Act of Parliament.

I think I can best illustrate this fundamental difficulty by citing three examples of the difficulties which have arisen in the past. In 1933 an Act was required to enable chief inspectors of the Metropolitan Police Force to withdraw from the Federation. When in 1961 they were anxious to rejoin another Act of Parliament had to be passed.

Policewomen have created some difficulty. Women usually do create difficulty in various places other than in the home. Although policewomen have been members of the Federation for a number of years, until recent years they had no voting rights. Not so long ago they became determined to rectify this position. As we all know, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." It became essential to grant policewomen their votes, but before it could be done another Act of Parliament had to be passed. That was done in 1961.

The real prize example occurred in 1959, when the Police Federation of England and Wales was unsuccessful in obtaining a let of the Central Hall, which seemed to be the only hail so constructed as to be suitable for its annual conference. Even though the Federation made timely application to hire it for its conference in 1959, it was unable to do so. It was up against a real difficulty, because it required legislation to enable the Federation to alter the statutory date of the conference from November. By the 1959 Act the Federation was permitted to postpone the conference until May, 1960. These are some of the difficulties.

The Committee on Police Conditions of Service—the Oaksey Committee—in paragraph 357 of its Report recommended that there should be power to amend by regulation the constitutions of Police Federations, and that power will be given by this Bill. Clause 1 (1) provides that …the Secretary of State may by regulations prescribe the constitution and proceedings of the Police Federations… That replaces the Schedule to the 1919 Act.

Subsection (2) provides that before making any regulations—and this is important—which are to be made by Statutory Instrument, those regulations shall be subject to annulment by resolution of either House of Parliament, and the Secretary of State shall consult the three Central Committees of the police federation concerned.

Subsection (3) sets out the particular matters which it is desired to make clear what the regulations may provide for. Paragraph (a) enables the regulations to make provision with respect to membership of the Federations. Had that provision been in existence at the time, there would have been no difficulty with women police officers in the earlier stages, or with the chief inspectors of the Metropolitan Police subsequently.

By subsection (3, b) the regulations may make provision for the raising of funds by the Federations by voluntary subscription and the use and management of those funds. That provision gives effect to the recommendation in paragraph 355 of the Oaksey Report that the use, raising and management of the Federations' voluntary funds should be governed by regulations. They are at present governed by administrative instructions Which were issued by the Secretary of State, in agreement with the Federations, in 1955.

Subsection (3, c) provides that the regulations shall make provision for …the treatment of attendance at meetings of committees and other bodies of the Federations as an occasion of police duty for the purpose of allowances and expenses… That will enable the regulations to make provision on the same lines as does paragraph 23 of the Schedule to the 1919 Act, so that officers who attend meetings of branch boards, central conferences and central committees will be entitled to receive travelling and subsistence allowances from public funds.

There is another important provision in subsection (3, d), which lays down that the regulations may provide …for the payment by the Secretary of State of expenses incurred in connection with the Federations…". That is to cover certain payments that are made from public funds to meet travelling expenses and subsistence in connection with meetings of the joint central committees, the hire of halls for the central conference, and part of the salaries of the secretaries of the Police Federations and of the Federations' central office expenditure. Those expenses are paid initially by the Secretaries of State, who recover half of the cost by a deduction from the grant payable to police authorities. That method has been adopted as being the most equitable way of spreading the cost over the whole body of police authorities, and I am very glad to know that the Department and the Government are prepared to move a Financial Resolution to cover that aspect of the Bill.

Subsections (4) and (5) deal with transitional and consequential provisions and the adapting of references. Subsection (6) has some significance for the Scottish Federation. It provides that the power under Section 13 (1) of the Police Act, 1919, to adapt the Schedule to that Act to the circumstances of Scotland shall cease to have effect, but that that shall not affect any Order under that Section made before the passing of this Measure. As a result, I think that members of the Scottish Federation can be sure that there will be no way of interfering with or limiting their powers of negotiation with the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Clause 1 (7) provides that: There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament any expenditure of the Secretary of State, and any increase in the sums so payable under any other Act, which is attributable to this Act. Clause 2, in addition to providing for the short title of the Bill, provides for the repeal of enactments and instruments from the date on which the regulations come into force. I will not trouble the House with the contents of the Schedules, for possibly the Minister of State will deal with this aspect.

I hope that the points I have made will clearly show the need for the Bill. It is customary for hon. Members on occasions such as this to declare any interests they might have in the matter. I have no personal interest, and despite the shortage of recruits in the police force they have not yet altered the regulation governing a man's height to a figure which would enable me to make application for membership.

I express my thanks to the officers of the Home Office and the Scottish Office for their invaluable help in the preparation of the Bill and for their advice and guidance. On behalf of the Police Federation, I offer their gratitude to the Home Departments for their blessing for the Bill and I hope that the police authorities throughout the country will welcome the Measure as one which will prove of value to them in their future consultations with the Police Federation.

3.36 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

The Bill was so clearly and cogently explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) that I have little to add to his remarks. The Bill deals with the affairs of an organisation which represents a body of men for whom in this House we all entertain a real respect and considerable liking.

I think it right that it should be said that we welcome any improvement in their representation and all this Bill does, in effect, is to substitute arrangements by regulations for clumsy arrangements by Statute. It does so on the highest of recommendation. It has the support, I understand, of the policemen themselves and that is what really matters in a thing of this sort. I feel sure that the Government will welcome it.

When the Minister of State deals with the matter, I urge him to look at Clause 1 (3, b) which deals with the funds raised by the federations and their use and management. This is obviously a thorny subject for any organisation representing a body of people in the public service, such as the police. It is, I believe, being dealt with already under other arrangements and I should like the hon. and learned Gentleman to explain whether any substantial change is intended and, if so, in what direction.

3.39 p.m.

The Minister of States Home Office (Mr. David Renton)

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) described the Bill as an unexciting one, but it has the great merit of being a further example of Parliament's constant interest in the well-being and efficiency of our police forces, to whom the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) paid a tribute with which I warmly join.

When, last Session, we had the Police Federations Bill before us, I remarked, on Second Reading, that the preponderance of the Bill's supporters were Welsh hon. Members or, at any rate, hon. Members of Welsh origin. On this occasion, however, the initiative has passed north of the Border and it seems, from the Bill's sponsors, that the English have also come forward to support the Federations' good cause.

I hasten to assure the House that the Bill, no less than its predecessors, is one to which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is glad to extend a welcome. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland equally gives his welcome to it. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has asked me to apologise to the House for his absence on other essential public business.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Shettleston upon his good fortune in the Ballot, his initiative and the way in which he has introduced what will, I am sure, prove to be an extremely useful Bill. This is the third Police Federations Bill in four Sessions. I should stress that had it been the first of them it would have made unnecessary the two others. If, therefore, there are any hon. Members who are fearful that the line of Police Federation Bills may stretch out to the crack of doom, they can take comfort from this Bill and reflect that, if, as I hope, it has a comfortable passage through its various stages in both Houses of Parliament, it will help to leave the way clearer for the introduction of other Measures which hon. Members may have even more at heart.

The Police Federations—one for England and Wales and one for Scotland—have now been in existence for about forty years. They were established by the Police Act, 1919, and their constitutions were set out in the Schedule to that Act. It is a tribute to those who framed that legislation that those constitutions have worked well in practice. The constitutions have given the Federations adequate scope for their various activities and enabled them to make a significant contribution to the wellbeing and efficiency of the police service as a whole.

Nevertheless, even in the best ordered scheme of things—dare I say "with the best possible planning"?—amendments or modifications become necessary from time to time to meet changing circumstances, and the constitutions of the Federations are no exception to this general proposition. I think that the House will agree that where, as is the case with these constitutions, changes can be made only by Statute, the position cannot be regarded as wholly satisfactory. Either valuable parliamentary time has to be devoted to legislation authorising the changes or the constitutions have, so to speak, to remain set in the mould in which they were cast many years ago.

It was as long ago as 1949 that the Oaksey Committee recommended that there should be this power to amend the constitutions of the Federations by regulations. The hon. Member has already referred to paragraph 357 of the Report, which is a very important recommendation. While successive Governments have not been able to find a suitable opportunity to implement the recommendation, the case for giving the Secretaries of State this regulation-making power, as the Bill seeks to do, is as valid now as it was in 1949. Indeed, it has been strengthened because, as I say, if the appropriate legislation had been enacted earlier, the two statutes to which the hon. Gentleman referred would not have been necessary. The dates of the elections to which he referred could have been altered and the emancipation of women taken one step further forward by Statutory Instrument.

The hon. Member has very clearly and admirably explained the principal contents of the Bill, and I do not think that it is necessary for me to repeat his explanation. However, the hon. and learned Member for Kettering has asked specifically for an explanation of Clause 1 (3, b), which deals with the raising of funds by the Federations by voluntary subscription and the use and management of funds derived from such subscriptions.

The explanation is this. Although the Federations have existed since 1919, they were for many years financed entirely out of public funds. They still derive some financial aid from public funds, and that is why we have these mystic words in italics in subsection (7) of Clause 1, and why we shall have to have a Money Resolution, which, on behalf of the Government, I say we shall provide.

Since 1955, they have also been able to raise funds by voluntary subscriptions among their members. This development also stemmed from the Oaksey Committee, which recommended an arrangement under which the authorities provided the basic essentials for a representative organisation, while any facilities beyond these basic essentials were financed by the members of the Federations themselves. I should remind the House that the Oaksey Committee considered this question of the use to which voluntary funds should be put, and made various recommendations in paragraphs 352 and 355 of its Report.

These were to this effect. Federation funds should not be used for benevolent or charitable purposes, for political purposes, for contributions to the funds of a trade union, or for supporting members involved in any criminal or disciplinary proceedings. The Oaksey Committee further suggested that so that the various limitations on the sources of Federation funds and the uses to which they may be put are properly observed, they should be defined by the Secretary of State and incorporated in regulations under Statute, and that any action not specifically permitted by the regulations should have to have the approval of the Secretary of State.

But owing, again, to the lack of parliamentary time, or the failure to make use of it, no suitable opportunity to give legislative effect to this recommendation has, until we had this Bill, presented itself, but I can assure the House that the matter has not remained in abeyance. Following the Committee's Report, the Police Council for England and Wales considered in some detail, and among other matters, what the rules governing the Federations' voluntary funds might be. The recommendations of this Committee were accepted by the Police Council, on which the Federations are represented, and it was subsequently agreed with the Federation that, pending legislation, arrangements should be made to give effect to the recommendations, not only of the Oaksey Committee, but of a sub-committee of the Police Council, on a non-statutory basis. Rules governing the funds were drawn up in consultation with the Federation, made by the Secretary of State, and introduced with effect from 1st June, 1955. A similar procedure was followed in Scotland.

Therefore, the present position—in answer directly to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering, and I think that we cannot understand these provisions in the Bill without knowing the present position—is that the use, raising and management of the Federations' voluntary funds are governed by administrative instructions issued by the Secretaries of State in agreement with the Federations in 1955, but the Bill will enable this matter to be governed by statutory regulations in the future, as the Oaksey Committee recommended.

Mr. Mitchison

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman assure me that the statutory regulations will be the same as, or not more restrictive than, the non-statutory rules now in force? If he can, that will satisfy me.

Mr. Renton

The answer is, "Yes, in substance." It may be found, on going into this matter, negotiating and bringing the 1955 administrative regulations up to date, that some minor regulations in detail might be required, but my answer is "Yes, in substance."

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman make clear to the House that although Oaksey recommended that the Police Federations should not be allowed to use their funds for benevolent or charitable purposes, the 1955 committee to which he referred reversed that proposal and they are now so allowed to use their funds through the joint central committee but not by local branch boards?

Mr. Renton

I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman has the advantage of me there. He has told the House something of which I was not aware. I am grateful to him, and I think that we can leave the matter at that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is this the Committee stage?"] I hear someone speak of the Committee stage. I am trying to oblige the hon. and learned Member for Kettering.

As public money is involved, I think that I owe it to the House to make a brief reference to the question of the assistance from public funds, because we ought always to be zealous where public funds are involved. Regulations made under paragraph (c) and (d) of Clause 1 (3) would moan that authority for the help from public funds would be put on a specifically statutory basis, which is not so at present. It is true that Clause 1 (3, c) is in line with the existing provision in the Schedule to the Police Act, 1919, whereby travelling expenses and subsistence allowances in respect of attendance by members of the Federations at meetings of branch boards and central conferences are borne by the police authority for the force concerned, but there are other expenses incurred in connection with the Federations which are borne on public funds without specific authority but which could be covered by regulations made under paragraph (d) of the subsection.

These comprise expenditure on the hire of halls for central conferences and part of the salaries of the secretaries and of the central office expenses of the Federations. At present, this expenditure is financed as a common police service, that is to say, it is met initially by the Secretaries of State, who recover half the cost from the whole body of police authorities by a deduction in proportion to the size of the police establishments from the Exchequer grants payable. The expenditure is met in this way, since it is equitable, as the Oaksey Committee suggested, for these particular categories of expenditure to be spread over the whole body of police authorities; and any regulations made under paragraph (d) could put the arangements on a proper basis.

This is not a complicated Bill, but it is, nevertheless, a very valuable one. In seeking to implement two of the recommendations of the Oaksey Committee over twelve years ago, it will not, perhaps, defeat the law's delay, but it will serve to bring to an end the long wait which has had to be endured before those two sound recommendations could be translated into law. As the Schedule indicates, the Bill will enable various enactments and instruments to be repealed, and by the greater flexibility which it will introduce it will, if passed, save the time of future legislators as well as provide an effective way of adapting the constitutions and proceedings of the Federations where that is necessary to meet changing circumstances. Because successive Governments have, through the remorseless pressure of other business, been unable to effect this useful improvement, we should be especially grateful to the hon. Member for Shettleston for having brought forward these proposals for doing so.

The only other point which I should mention, and which I should have mentioned earlier, perhaps, and which is important is the question which, in the police force, is occasionally controversial, that of the membership of the Federations. Section 1 of the Police Act, 1919, which established the Federations, refers to the members of police forces… an expression which can be taken to include every rank in the police force. But paragraph 1 of the Schedule to that Act provides that the Federations shall consist of all members for the time being below the rank of superintendent. I assume that regulations replacing that paragraph would provide specifically for the membership of the federations and, by virtue of the concluding words of Clause 1 (3) of the Bill, would have effect notwithstanding anything in Section 1 of the 1919 Act.

There has been much discussion about this subsection, but in the circumstances this is an open-minded and fair way of dealing with the membership issue, and I hope that that way will commend itself to the House. I wish the hon. Member well with his Bill and I hope that he will have no difficulty in its further stages. I shall be glad to offer him our assistance.

3.56 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I commend the Bill to the House. I rejoice that a great many of the difficulties which confronted the administration in the past will be resolved. I am particularly glad that at last even a policeman is willing to concede that "officer" in these days is a word of common gender.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).