HC Deb 06 March 1962 vol 655 cc349-59

[Queen's Recommendation signified.]

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees).


Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the law relating to the constitution and proceedings of the Police Federations, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenditure of the Secretary of State, and any increase in the sums so payable under any other Act, which is attributable to the new Act.—[Mr. Renton.]

10.24 p.m.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

This is the third Money Resolution which has been brought forward by the Government in support of Bills which have had their Second Readings under the Private Members' Bills procedure. It is only fair to draw attention to this unusual mood of generosity on the part of the Treasury, which, to my mind, is quite out of step with the declared intentions and policies of the Government. The Chancellor continues to tell us that we must carefully scrutinise new items of expenditure, especially those that place a new and continued burden upon the Treasury. The House should be told something about this one.

I was a supporter of the Bill, but it is right that we should be given some information. If I recollect rightly, when the Bill went through the House on Friday we had 20 minutes to deal with it, and although we had an excellent speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern), I am sure that he would be the first to agree that we did not have the full discussion that the Bill merited. We are dealing here only with the consequential expenditure, and I hope that either the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of State, Home Department, or both, will be able to give us all the information we require to allow us to make up our minds whether we should support the Government in this unusual mood of generosity at the moment.

I understand that the expenditure which will arise will relate to attendance of police at meetings of the Federations as a police duty. Therefore, expenses and allowances will fall to be paid, and in addition there will be payments by the Secretary of State of expenses incurred in connection with the Federations. This provision is very loose, and I should like to know to what extent it is covered by the Money Resolution and how much is involved in total for England and Wales and how much for Scotland. This will be met not by general grant but by a direct grant payable to the local authority.

I should like to know not only how much is involved but how much will be accountable for as expenditure under other Acts, as stated in the Money Resolution. I am sure that the Minister of State has all the information at his fingertips, and I shall be glad to see whether or not we can support him. I insist that we have these figures for Scotland as well. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman has that information.

10.28 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr. David Renton)

The explanation is quite simple. If hon. Members will turn to the Police Federations Bill, which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has pointed out had a Second Reading under the Private Members' Bill procedure, they will find in Clause 1 (3, d) that the regulations to be made may provide for the payment by the Secretary of State of expenses incurred in connection with the Federations. In subsection (7) of the same Clause it is provided 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. As the hon. Member has pointed out, though somewhat more narrowly than is likely to be the case, there are certain expenses to be met in connection with meetings of the Police Federations. There are also expenses, which perhaps he overlooked, in connection with the various central committees and the Joint Central Committee. No change is contemplated in the existing arrangements whereby help is given to Police Federations. Travelling expenses and subsistence allowances for attendance by members of the Federations at meetings of the branch boards and the central conference are to be borne by the police authorities for the forces concerned, but it must be borne in mind that the police authority receives a 50 per cent. Exchequer grant. To that extent, the point needs to be covered by a Money Resolution.

The matter goes further than that, because expenses and allowances in connection with the meetings of the three central committees and of the Joint Central Committee and expenditure on part of the salaries of the secretaries of the Police Federations and of the central office expenses of the Federations are financed as a common police service. They are met initially by the two Secretaries of State, my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland. They recover half of the cost of their common services from the whole body of police authorities, and they do it by deduction in proportion to the size of the police establishments from the Exchequer grant payable to them.

We feel that it is equitable for expenditures met in this way to be spread over the whole body of police authorities in the way I have described, in some cases the police authorities themselves paying in the first instance and then recouping some of the money by means of the 50 per cent. grant, in others the Secretary of State paying in the first instance and then recouping the money by means of a contribution later.

No change is contemplated in these arrangements, but a Financial Resolution is necessary, as the hon. Gentleman will have appreciated from what I have said. There is no specific statutory authority at present for the expenditure, for example, on the hiring of halls or on the salaries of the secretaries or for central office expenditure. Since this expenditure will be within the scope of the regulations to be made under the Bill, specific statutory authority is desirable.

I come now to the question of how much money is involved. It is a trifling amount by the sort of standards which we are accustomed to contemplate. It is impossible for me to give an exact estimate, but the nearest estimate I can give is that it would amount to some hundreds rather than thousands of pounds per year. I hope that with that explanation the House will readily agree to grant consent to the Money Resolution in Committee.

10.33 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

We are grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for his detailed explanation, but we did not receive much satisfaction in regard to the amount. It is not good enough to say that this is a small amount and it does not matter. Small amounts matter just as much as large amounts. When we are asked to sanction expenditure, we should have some idea at least of what it is, whether small or large. That is the purpose of the Financial Resolution.

I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to refer to certain joint expenditures by the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Home Secretary. What proportion of these joint expenditures has to be met by the Secretary of State for Scotland? How does Scotland stand in the matter? Is it fifty-fifty?

Mr. Renton

I said that 50 per cent. would be paid by each of the Secretaries of State in respect of their own common services, and the remainder would be met to the extent of 50 per cent. by making a charge on the police authorities.

Mr. Willis

I understood that, but I gathered that there were joint expenditures in connection with the central office, for instance. What proportion of this joint expense, which I take it is met by Scotland and by England and Wales, is borne by the Secretary of State? This seems to me to be a matter about which we should have information.

Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)

As usual, the English will pay too much.

Mr. Willis

If the hon. Member is objecting, now is the chance for him to come into the debate and make a speech stating the case on behalf of England. I have no doubt that the people of England would be delighted to see him battling for their rights. The hon. Member ought to come in. These are important matters. We hear a great deal from the other side about the necessity for controlling our finances, for economy and for keeping Government expenditure at the lowest possible point. Those are desirable aims, but we never find hon. Members opposite doing much about it on Financial Resolutions. However, I am being led astray again.

I take it that this expenditure for the central office includes salaries and other things. The Minister of State said that even so it was only a question of hundreds. With salaries, the total would probably come to more than hundreds, unless the people are badly paid. When the hon. and learned Gentleman said that the expenditure was in the nature of hundreds rather than thousands of pounds, was he correct? One cannot pay many salaries out of less than £1,000. Therefore, it seems to me that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not quite right and that the sum is larger than he has led us to believe and, therefore, worthy of inquiry.

There are one or two other questions that I could have asked, but I will leave them as we are anxious—[Interruption.] This filibuster by the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) is not good enough. I shall be pleased to hear from the Minister of State, or from the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who I am sure has been well briefed on the Money Resolution, the percentage paid by the Scottish Office. He ought to know. This is his responsibility. We would be delighted to have from him information concerning the amount that the Secretary of State will have to meet in respect of the central office, the central committees, joint committees and other meetings. If we could get that information, we could proceed with the carrying of this Money Resolution.

10.39 p.m.

Sir Myer Galpern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

On this evening and at this late hour, I am in a conciliatory mood. Therefore, I will not embark on criticism of the kind which has been raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). Suffice it to say that had they consulted me, as the sponsor of the Bill, I should have been able to satisfy them on every financial aspect—

Mr. Ross

On a point of order. I was under the impression, Sir William, that the sponsors of the Money Resolution were the Government and the Treasury and not my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern). Am I right?

The Chairman

I do not think that any point of order arises. The hon. Member is quite entitled to ask his question.

Sir M. Galpern

I was speaking as the sponsor of the Bill. I was not referring to the Money Resolution. I readily concede that it is the duty of the Government, if they are prepared to support the Bill, to make the financial provisions, which they are doing this evening. I am not going to the rescue of the Minister of State. Knowing the background to the financial arrangements, I consider that he has stated the situation admirably, concisely and clearly to, I hope, the majority of hon. Members.

Perhaps, however, I might add to what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) asked how it was that only a very small sum—a few hundred pounds—could be involved in the financial expenditure when he considers what the salaries might be. For his benefit, I would say that the salaries are met partly by the Police Federations themselves. This is not something which is wholly dependent upon a financial grant. Indeed, I would say that at the end of the day when the Bill becomes, as I hope it will, an Act, the financial contributions will, in effect, be less than at present. I agree with the Minister of State that the total outlay will be a few hundred pounds.

I understand that there are at least 300 members of the Scottish Police Federa tion in Kilmarnock and also in Edinburgh, East—

Mr. Willis

There are more than that.

Sir M. Galpern

Let us say there are about 500 there. That makes a very substantial number. There are there, therefore, 500 members of the police force who are determined that the Bill should be placed on the Statute Book. They have agitated for this ever since the Police Act, 1919, in order to get what is, in effect, a modified form of trade unionism for policemen from chief inspector downwards. They have wanted this method of dealing with police affairs by regulations rather than by Act of Parliament.

I counsel my hon. Friends the Members for Kilmarnock and Edinburgh, East to give some serious consideration to what I have said to them about the number of members of the Federation in their own areas, and to take my assurance that the Bill is especially welcomed by those who have been agitating for it.

Mr. Willis

I do not doubt that the Bill is required and is very welcome. I am in wholehearted support of it. The only thing is—

The Chairman

Order. Perhaps it would not be out of place if I were to venture to remind the Committee that we are dealing with a Money Resolution and not a Bill.

Mr. Willis

May be I could correct what I was saying, Sir William, and say that I am in wholehearted support of the Money Resolution. The only thing I was trying to do was to find out something about the nature of the sums involved. I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern).

Sir M. Galpern

In view of the sudden and complete conversion of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East, I have nothing further to say.

10.44 p.m.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

Although it might not have been apparent from the speeches that we have heard so far, the Money Resolution is of equal interest to English Members as to Scottish Members. While I am always in favour of asserting the rights of the Committee to discuss any Money Resolution, and my hon. Friends who have spoken are perfectly entitled to ask the Minister to justify the Money Resolution—which I think he has done in this case—perhaps I may say that, speaking for myself, I not only approve of the Bill but am very glad to know that the Government have introduced a Money Resolution to enable a Private Member's Bill to go forward. That is a very valuable precedent. If the Money Resolution had not been tabled by the Government the Bill would not, I understand, have been able to make any further progress.

I welcome the fact that when we have a useful Private Member's Bill, whether dealing with this subject or any other subject, which commends itself, as this Bill has done, to both sides of the House, the Government are sufficiently well disposed to table a Money Resolution to enable it to proceed in Committee, which it otherwise could not do. I repeat that I think that my hon. Friends are right to explore the scope of the Money Resolution and discover exactly what is involved. I am satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister of State, and I hope that the Committee will agree to the Money Resolution.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Ross

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) must learn to be a little less sensitive when his favourite child is being examined. He may be the sponsor of the Bill, but we are not dealing with the Bill or its merits. We are dealing with the Money Resolution, which is essential if the Bill is to proceed. The Money Resolution is brought forward under the name of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. It is not good enough for an hon. Member to say, "If you want information, come to me privately and I will give it to you". When a Money Resolution is introduced, all hon. Members have a right to know what it means. My hon. Friend should give us a vote of thanks for letting the whole country know what a valuable contribution he is making to the well-being of the police in Scotland and how little it will cost. He should be very careful when he ventures to give us information, because he immediately makes us wonder whether we have the right information. The Minister of State said that it will not cost more than £100.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

He said it would cost a few hundred pounds.

Mr. Ross

He said £100.

Mr. Renton


Mr. Ross

My hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston said it would not cost more than a few hundred.

Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)

Wrong again.

Mr. Ross

How does the Minister of State divide this up? Part of the expenditure he referred to is expenditure which has already been incurred and has been supported by the Government. The Bill for which the Money Resolution is tabled will enable additional items to be met by the Federations and qualify for Government support. The Minister mentioned three—the hire of halls, the salary of the secretary, and the cost of central office administration. May we have more specific information? They will have a cheap secretary, if that is all it will cost. May we have more information about the Scottish expenditure?

I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston that the Kilmarnock police force has such confidence in me that it has not even sent me a postcard about the Money Resolution. It did not even send me an unstamped postcard about the Bill. I am sold on the Bill. I think that when it is on the Statute Book it will be wonderful, but I am much more interested at the moment in finding out why the Government have decided to support it and how much it will cost the taxpayer.

Sir M. Galpern

I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) that, although I am not canvassing for it, I should not be surprised if at the end of the day I receive the Police Medal for this. My hon. Friend mentioned three items as being referred to by the Minister of State, but did not the hon. and learned Gentleman indicate that these items are already being met but without the necessary statutory power? As I understand, they are being met already but they will now be placed on a proper statutory basis.

10.50 p.m.

Mr. Renton

Regarding the present position, these items are being met now in the way in which they will be met in future, and I have already described that once and I will not weary the Committee with another description. The authority at present is not a specific statutory authority for this particular type of expenditure. It is an authority whereby, as I understand it, Secretaries of State have the power to meet very small items which arise either on the Common Police Fund or by way of a 50 per cent grant on the contributions to individual police forces.

Thus there is, indirectly, authority at the moment, but we felt that it was right that as we were legislating to give a specific power there should be a Money Resolution and specific statutory authority obtained for the expenditure which is proposed. I do not complain that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has pressed me to say with precision how much. I did not utter the words "£100". The hon. Gentleman misheard me.

Mr. Ross

I apologise.

Mr. Renton

If I did say "£100" it was my fault and not his. But my recollection is that I said—and I admit that the words may have slipped off my tongue—that it would be a few hundred pounds rather than thousands of pounds. I believe that those were the words I used. Of course, it would be possible to work out a very detailed estimate, but that would cost public money and I ask the Committee seriously to consider whether it would be worth the public expenditure that would be involved. A Government auditor would have to go through the accounts of each police authority to find out exactly what contributions had been made by each policy authority in England and Wales and in Scotland towards the various kinds of expenses I have mentioned which could be made by the police authorities to the Police Federations.

Of course, it would be quite an easy matter to divide that by two. There would be no difficulty about doing that, but a special effort would be required to extract each of these small sums—often amounting to a few pounds—from each police authority. We felt that that would be over-zealous as well as costly and that it would be having a better sense of proportion if I assured the Committee that the total expenditure involved would not be more than a few hundred pounds.

Although hon. Gentlemen opposite have expressed some surprise that a few hundred pounds will cover the contribution towards the cost of salaries, I stress that it is a contribution and not the total cost. There is an arrangement, which is of a voluntary kind and of long standing, between the Police Federations and the Secretaries of State whereby the Secretaries of State, out of the Common Police Fund, meet part of the cost of the salaries payable. Incidentally, they are not all salaries of wholetime people. As I understand it—although I am speaking without having checked on this point and I hope that I will be forgiven if I am wrong—some of these salaries are paid as honoraria to police officers who are drawing police pay but who also receive honoraria for the work they do for the Police Federations. Further, the Secretaries of State, having agreed to pay part of the salaries involved, do not eventually have to bear the whole of the cost because they get half of it back from the police authorities, although this presents a minor complication.

I hope that boo. Members may now feel that it was right for me to have given a broad estimate of this very small sum, that it would have been over-zealous and wasteful of public money to have worked out a detailed estimate and that it could only have been an estimate based on what was paid in the past and projecting that into the future. With that explanation, I hope that the Committee will agree that the Money Resolution can be readily supported.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the law relating to the constitution and proceedings of the Police Federations, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenditure of the Secretary of State, and any increase in the sums so payable under any other Act, which is attributable to the new Act.

Resolution to be reported.

Report to be received Tomorrow.