HC Deb 29 July 1966 vol 732 cc2151-4

3.20 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Dick Taverne)

I beg to move, That the Police Pensions (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1966, a draft of which was laid before this House on 7th July, be approved. These Regulations amend the Police Pensions Regulations, 1962. Regulation 1 of the draft Regulations concerns the pensions of police officers who are retired following injury on duty. As hon. Members probably know, these pensions consist of two elements—a basic pension and a supplementary pension. At present, the Pensions Regulations provide that for the purpose of assessing a supplemental pension account shall be taken of any flat rate National Insurance sickness or injury benefit which the pensioner is receiving in respect of his injury.

The National Insurance Act of this year provides that from 6th October earnings-related supplements will be payable in addition to flat-rate sickness or injury benefits for an initial period of 26 weeks. Regulation 1 accordingly provides that where account is taken of flat-rate National Insurance sickness or injury benefit account shall similarly be taken of the supplementary benefit received under the 1966 Act in respect of the injury.

I should add that in practice this is not likely to cause any further abatement of pension. This is because the new earnings-related supplements are payable only for the first 26 weeks whereas police officers injured on duty are normally not retired until a considerable time has elapsed since the injury, and this is normally more than six months.

Regulations 2, 3 and 4 of the draft Regulations concern discretionary increases in certain police widows pensions. The police were excluded from the contributory old-age pension scheme which existed before 1948 and some officers were, therefore, unable to establish any entitlement to a State pension for their widows. Since 1948, the police pensions scheme has given police authorities discretion to make payments to such widows of the same amounts as are available under the National Insurance Scheme.

Over the first 13 weeks of widowhood these payments are equal to the higher rate of National Insurance widows' benefit, namely, £5 12s. 6d. a week—which is known as the widows' allowance—and thereafter at the normal rate of benefit of £4 a week.

The Act of 1966 provides that from 5th October widow's allowance shall be payable for the first 26 weeks instead of the first 13 weeks of widowhood, and this extended benefit period also applies to women whose husbands die within the 13 weeks before 5th October, and who will therefore still be in receipt of widow's allowance when the provisions of the Act come into operation.

The amendments referred to in Regulations 2, 3 and 4 of these draft Regulations similarly extend the period during which the payments to police widows, corresponding to the widow's allowance, may be made. The Police Council for Great Britain has been consulted and is in agreement with the proposal that these amendments should be made.

There is one further point. These Regulations are fearfully difficult to follow, with all their cross-references. This is the eighth amendment of the 1962 Regulations. The House will be glad to know that consolidation of the Police Pensions Regulations is now at an advanced stage and that the consolidated Regulations will be presented in the autumn. Meanwhile, because the provisions of the National Insurance Act, 1966, which need to be taken into account, come into operation on 5th October this year, the House is being asked to approve the draft amendment Regulations.

3.24 p.m.

Mr. Richard Sharpies (Sutton and Cheam)

I am sure of one thing—that the House will be grateful for the last remark made by the Under-Secretary. On previous occasions I have drawn attention to the complexity of these Regulations, and I am delighted that we are at last to have consolidated Regulations which will be of assistance to all those who have to deal with these Regulations.

I am grateful for the Under-Secretary's explanation. Regulations 2, 3 and 4 are beneficial and are, therefore, to be welcomed. Regulation 1, I think, is to prevent a policeman retired on injury pension receiving more than a prescribed amount. This, as was indicated by the Under-Secretary, is in accordance with the principle of abatement which has existed ever since the 1948 Act came into force.

However, under the 1966 National Insurance Act, a policeman is called upon to make an additional contribution of approximately 2s. Over the police force as a w1-ole, this amounts to £450,000, if my figures are correct. From this sum, contributed compulsorily by individual policemen, they will receive no benefit. I think that the hon. Gentleman was somewhat less than frank with the House, because he should have said that these Regulations—and No. 1, in particular—were accepted by the Police Federation in the Police Council only with considerable reluctance and a number of reservations.

The reservations were that they expected that there should be improvements, first, in sickness benefit, second, in supplementary pensions, third, in a number of provisions relating to widows' pensions, and, fourth, in the provisions relating to children's allowances. Before the House passes these Regulations, we should be told whether or not the Home Office accepts in principle the reservations put forward as a condition for the acceptance of Regulation No. 1.

The House should also be told what happens to the £450,000 contributed by the policemen, from which the police receive little or no benefit. Who gets the benefit of this amount contributed under the 1966 Act? I do not wish to hold up these Regulations, but we do need an explanation of these two points.

3.27 p.m.

Mr. Taverne

I can give a very short answer to these two questions. First, the increased contributions which will be made by individual police officers will ensure for them a small graduated retirement pension, which will not result in a reduction of their police pensions, so they will get some small benefits from it.

We are aware that the Police Federation accepted these Regulations with some reservations, and that they have put forward certain proposals. I can assure the hon. Gentleman—I am sure that he would not expect me to go further than this—that this will be taken carefully into account and considered by the Police Council in due course.

Mr. Sharples

Will the hon. Gentleman answer my other point about the £450,000?

Mr. Taverne

This is very much related to the first point, as it is closely connected with the benefits which are received and any other proposal to be considered by the Police Council.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Police Pensions (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1966, a draft of which was laid before this House on 7th July, be approved.