HC Deb 28 February 1963 vol 672 cc1580-4

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Police Pensions (Amendment) Regulations, 1963, a draft of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be approved.—[Mr. Woodhouse.]

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

As this is a rather complicated matter, it would be useful if we could have a few words of explanation from the Joint Under-Secretary of State about it.

10.0 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. C. M. Woodhouse)

I gladly accede to the hon. Gentleman's request.

When I presented the Police Pensions Regulations, 1962, in their consolidated form, I said that we should from time to time have to make fresh Amendments. This is such an occasion, although I do not think I need detain the House long with these Regulations because they are entirely consequential on the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1962. I will not pretend that these Regulations are simple even in their present form, but I think that they are much simpler than they have been before partly because of the consolidating Measure of a few weeks ago, so that there is now only one set of Regulations to be amended instead of three sets for England and Wales and another three sets for Scotland.

For the sake of clarity, instead of making verbal amendments, we have restated the essential paragraphs as amended in the new Regulations so that the Regulations now before the House consist virtually of long paragraphs in inverted commas which can be transferred bodily into the consolidating Regulations either in place of or in addition to the existing paragraphs.

I wish to explain briefly why we have to go through this procedure on these Regulations. It is because the Pensions (Increase) Act, like its predecessors, although it applies to police pensioners, does not apply to police widows and their dependants who are dealt with by Regulations. The reason for that is basically twofold. First, some of the awards to police widows and dependants are related to National Insurance awards, and these are kept in line with the cost of living separately. Therefore, if the Pensions (Increase) Acts were also to apply to them the effect would be to compensate the same people twice over for the same increase in the cost of living.

The second reason is that some of the awards in the case of widows and dependants of policemen are on a flat rate instead of one varying according to the date on which they were granted. It would be inappropriate to apply to such flat rate awards the graduated scale of increases which was introduced in Section 1 of the 1962 Act.

Broadly, the position is that the police awards dealt with in these Regulations fall into two categories—flat rate awards, and other awards. To take the flat-rate awards first, the increase is achieved by substituting the new actual rates after increase for the sums in the present Regulations. The House will find an example in Regulation 3 which replaces the corresponding paragraph on page 65 of the consolidating Regulations. These flat rate awards will attract the maximum increases offered under the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1962—in other words, a 12 per cent. increase for all cases, together with the bonus of £20, which is the highest level for those over 70. The latter is, however, subject to the same limitation as in the 1962 Act if the increase would exceed a quarter of the pension in payment. This follows precisely on the 1962 Act and it is for reasons which my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury explained during the Committee stage of that Measure.

As to the other awards—that is, those which are related to the amount of the dead officer's pay either at the time of his retirement or, if he died while still serving, at the time of his death—widows and dependants who get these awards will receive increases equivalent to and subject to the same conditions as the increases of similar awards provided in the 1962 Act, both Sections 1 and 2. This is achieved by Regulation 2, which provides that these awards shall be treated as if they were specified in the Schedule to the 1959 Act, which was the last Pensions (Increase) Act.

The one other point which, I think, the House would like to have drawn to its attention is the addition of the new Regulation 84B to the existing Regulations. This provides that the increase in a child's allowance shall be payable so long as the allowance is itself payable under the 1962 Regulations. This provision is consequential upon Section 5 of the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1962.

As the House knows, it is necessary for the Secretary of State to consult the Police Council for England and Wales and the Police Council for Scotland on such Regulations. This has been done and both bodies have approved the Regulations. As can be seen from Regulation 8, the Regulations have been drafted to have effect retrospectively from 1st January this year, when the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1962, came into force.

10.7 p.m.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

I am very glad that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department was prompted into saying a few words of explanation about Regulations which at first sight appear, and are, extremely complicated. I am sure that the House is grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his lucid explanation of what the House is this evening being asked to do. It is just as well to have it clear on the record what we are doing for the benefit of these widows and dependants of police widows.

It is, perhaps, at first sight somewhat curious that the widows and dependants of policemen are dealt with separately from the widows and dependants of other persons to whom pensions are payable by the State. As the Minister has indicated, the preparation and submission of the appropriate Regulations dealing with police pensions has not been free from technical difficulties during the last few years.

It was a result of certain protests that we made in previous years that, first, the Police Pensions Act was passed in 1961 which enabled Statutory Instrument 1962 No. 2756 to be made. That was itself a consolidating and amending Order which was debated in the House shortly before Christmas and came into operation as recently as 1st January, 1963. It might therefore, at first sight appear anomalous that so soon afterwards we have to pass a set of Regulations amending those Regulations which came into force on 1st January.

As I understood the Minister to explain, the reason is that we have had the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1962, which received the Royal Assent in December and came into operation on 1st January this year and provided in statutory form for a substantial increase in all pensions to Service men, policemen and other persons and their widows and dependants but not to the widows and dependants of policemen. They were excluded from the 1962 Act.

As the hon. Gentleman said, there are both historical and practical reasons for their being deliberately excluded. Therefore, it has become necessary to deal with their case by some regulations under the earlier Acts. I do not think that the House would wish me to repeat all the details the hon. Gentleman has been kind enough to give, but I will lust make two observations.

First, as I understand it, the increased pensions being given to these police widows and dependants are no less favourable—in some cases perhaps slightly more favourable—than the increases being given to other widows and dependants. I do not think that anybody in the House would regret that that is the case, because, after all, policemen are exposed to certain very definite and continuous risks, and since the maintenance of law and order and the prevention of crime depend upon having both an efficient and contented police force, it is most desirable in the public interest that we should do everything possible to ensure that policemen are adequately paid and that proper provision is made by way of pensions for their widows and dependants. It is very satisfactory to note that that is being done by these Regulations.

Secondly, it might be to the benefit of those directly affected by the Regulations, which are complicated, if the hon. Gentleman published or made available through the police machinery some simplified memorandum or document stating in a clear, intelligible form exactly what is the effect of the new Regulations.

I echo the wish of the hon. Gentleman that these Regulations will receive the approval of the House.

10.13 p.m.

Mr. Woodhouse

By leave of the House, perhaps I may reply briefly to the last two points raised by the hon. Member. I appreciate, and entirely agree with, the point he has made about police widows' pensions being at least as favourable and perhaps even more favourable than others. I agree entirely that the House and the country will accept that this is right. The hon. Member also suggested the issue of a simplified memorandum explaining the significance of these changes. It is our intention to issue such a leaflet to all local authorities and to the Police Federation.

Resolved, That the Police Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 1963, a draft of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be approved.