HC Deb 04 March 1966 vol 725 cc1664-7

11.52 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. George Thomas)

I beg to move, That the Police Pensions (Amendment) Regulations, 1966, a draft of which was laid before this House on 24th February, be approved. The Police Council has been consulted about these draft Regulations. They amend the Police Pensions Regulations. 1962, and they fall into two parts. Part I is consequential on the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1965, and serves to increase the pensions of police widows and the allowance payable to children of deceased police officers, pensions of retired police officers themselves being increased directly under the 1965 Act. For technical drafting reasons, this is the usual way of applying pensions increase Measures to the police service.

There are two classes of police widow's pension. One is related to the late husband's pay and length of service, the other is the flat rate amount depending upon his rank. The draft Regulations now before the House follow the precedent of earlier increase Measures by providing in the former case that the awards shall be treated as though they had been specified in the Schedule to the Pensions Increase Act, and in the latter case by substituting new rates.

The cases related to pay and service are covered by draft Regulation 4, and the flat-rate cases are covered by draft Regulations 1, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. The flat rate amounts now provided are the existing amounts increased by 16 per cent., the highest increase for which the Act provides. Draft Regulation 2 which relates to the additional increase in pension at age 70, provided by the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1962, and the increase payable on it under the 1965 Act, and draft Regulation 3 which relates to the duration of a child's allowance, are consequential upon the main provisions. These are thoroughly desirable Amendments on which, I am sure, both sides of the House are entirely agreed.

Part II of the draft Regulations contains in draft Regulation 10 a technical Amendment with respect to the construction of the 1962 Regulations where part of a police area is transferred to another police area in consequence of local government reorganisation. Draft Regulation 12 provides that Part I, that is, the Part relating to pensions increases, shall have effect from 1st January last, the date from which the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1965, took effect, and that draft Regulation 10 in Part II shall take effect as from 1st April, 1966, the date on which the draft Regulations themselves are to come into operation.

11.55 a.m.

Mr. Richard Sharpies (Sutton and Cheam)

The House is grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for that explanation. As he has said, the Regulations have been approved by the Police Coun- cil and, in so far as they increase the pensions payable to widows and dependants of police officers, we on this side, naturally, give them full support.

I have, nevertheless, one comment to make about the presentation of the Regulations. If one wants to find out what these extremely complex Regulations do, one has to refer not only to the principal Regulations but to the amending Regulations of 1963 as well. I have looked at a great number of these Statutory Instruments, and the Explanatory Note at the end of these Regulations is probably as obtuse as any that I have ever seen. Without the lucid explanation the hon. Gentleman gave, it would have been impossible for anyone outside the House, without a great deal of study, to discover what these Regulations are intended to do.

For example, the Explanatory Note tells us that Regulation 3 of the present Regulations contains a supplemental amendment relating to the duration of an increase in a child's allowance". It is quite impossible to tell from that whether the child benefits from the Regulation or whether the duration is to be cut. Regulation 3 itself refers, first, to the principal Regulations, which one then has to look at, then to the amending Regulations brought in in 1963, and thereafter to the Pensions Increase Acts of 1959, 1962 and 1965.

When complex Regulations of this kind are brought before the House, there is a duty upon the sponsoring Department to make the Explanatory Note clear so that it can be understood without the enormous amount of back reference which one otherwise must do. In your Ruling of 21st February, Mr. Speaker, you intimated that, in order to save the expense of reprinting large numbers of Regulations which were out of date, it would be for the convenience of the House if Departments putting forward Measures of this kind were to deposit in the Library an easy reference to the back Regulations for interested Members. In this case, I made inquiries and found that it had not been done. Perhaps I may add, without going out of order, that it has been done in very few cases indeed. I hope that, in future, sponsoring Departments, when bringing forward complex Regulations of this kind, will undertake what one might call the courteous act of taking the trouble to put such notes in the Library for the benefit of Members. In this case, I was not able last night to obtain copies of the previous Regulations from the Vote Office.

Having said that, I repeat that the Opposition welcome, as we always shall, Regulations of this kind, which give benefit to widows and dependants of police officers.

Mr. George Thomas

I am deeply grateful to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) for the unfailing courtesy which he brings to his task. I sympathise entirely with the points that he has made, and will ask the Home Office to continue to set an example to all other Government Departments by ensuring that there is available some explanation of the papers involved. This is the seventh set of Amendments to the 1962 Police Regulations. It is time to consolidate, and we intend to do so before the autumn.

I can undertake to meet the wishes of the hon. Gentleman in all that he has said because I have the advantage of a great Department to help me understand the archaic English in the Statutes, and I realise how difficult it must be. Cruel as it sounds, I hope that he will be on the other side of the House for a long time, but I will make it as easy as I can for him.

Mr. Speaker

The Chair has noted what both hon. Gentlemen have said about the provision of papers. I have made quite clear in a previous Ruling what I think the responsibility of Departments should be.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Police Pensions (Amendment) Regulations, 1966, a draft of which was laid before this House on 24th February, be approved.