HC Deb 19 May 1969 vol 784 cc183-7
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)

I beg to move, That the Police Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 23rd April, be approved. These draft regulations amend the Police Pensions Regulations, 1966. They are in three parts, and I should like to give the House a brief explanation of the changes.

Part I provides for the regulations to come into operation on 1st June this year and for the dates from which Parts II and III take effect.

Part II of the regulations is consequential on the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1969, and serves to increase the pensions of police widows and the allowances payable to the children of deceased police officers. The pensions of retired police officers have been increased directly under the 1969 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 widows' pension. One is related to the late husband's pay and length of service. The other is a flat-rate amount depending upon his rank. The regulations now before the House follow the precedent of earlier Pensions (Increase) Measures by providing, in the former case, that the awards shall be treated as though they had been specified in Schedule 1 to the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1969, and, in the latter case, by specifically substituting new rates.

The cases related to pay and service are covered by draft Regulation 6 and the flat-rate cases by draft Regulations 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11. The flat-rate amounts now proposed are the existing amounts increased by 18 per cent., which is the highest percentage increase for which the Act provides.

Draft Regulation 5, which relates to the additional increase in a pension at age 70 provided by the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1962, and to the increases payable on it under the Pensions (Increase) Acts of 1965 and 1969, and draft Regulation 7, which relates to the duration of an increase in a child's allowance, are consequential on the main provisions.

Draft Regulation 2(a) provides that Parts II of the regulations shall have effect from 1st April, 1969, that being the date from which the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1969, took effect. I am sure that the House will agree that these amendments are all very desirable.

Part III of the draft regulations contains two separate amendments. The first arises out of a reorganisation of the higher ranks in the Metropolitan Police, one consequence of which is the introduction of the rank of Deputy Assistant Commissioner. The pension conditions appropriate to this new rank are to be the same as those for the existing rank of Commander. Draft Regulations 12 and 13 make the necessary provisions for ages of retirement, that is, a normal requirement to serve until age 60 under Regulation 12, but with provision for compulsory retirement on account of age at 57 contained in Regulation 13.

The second amendment, contained in draft Regulation 14, relates to the position of those children of deceased police officers who do not receive National Insurance benefits because their fathers were unable to complete the necessary contributions to the scheme. Since 5th July, 1948—the date on which the National Insurance scheme came into operation—the Police Pensions Regulations have given police authorities discretion to increase the police allowances of these children up to amounts which are related to the National Insurance for which they do not qualify. When the amounts of these National Insurance benefits are changed, it is the practice to make corresponding changes in the amounts which can be paid by police authorities.

Hon. Members will be aware that from 8th October last National Insurance benefits for children became payable at different rates in accordance with the Family Allowances and National Insurance Act of last year. The amendment in draft Regulation 14 therefore makes certain related adjustments as appropriate in the amounts payable under the Police Pensions scheme, but no adjustments are made which would reduce the amounts of payments already being made for children.

Finally, the House should know that the Police Council for Great Britain has been consulted on all the amendments contained in these regulations and is in agreement with the proposal that they should be made.

10.46 p.m.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

The widows and children of police officers are, like the officers themselves, deserving people, and it should always be the concern of this House to ensure that they are properly provided for. Therefore, we support these regulations, and the improvements in the pensions' position and the children's allowances for which the regulations provide. It would be interesting if the hon. Gentleman could give us some idea of the number of police widows that there are now so that we can get some measure of the size of this problem.

As to the form and content of the regulations, and bearing in mind that these are amending regulations, I prefer the method used for achieving the amendments of the principal regulations to that which has generally been followed in the past. It is better, as these regulations do, completely to replace a previous regulation than to attempt to amend it piecemeal and in detail and add a great many cross-references. It is far more satisfactory to have it done in this form and content, and makes less urgent what used to become too rapidly urgent, a need for consolidation.

There are two questions that I wish to ask on the substance of the matter. First, the hon. Gentleman has explained that the flat rates for widows depend in each case on the rank of the husband, and the hon. Gentleman has told us that the increases in the flat rates come into effect when the widows reach the age of 70. Why has the age of 70 been chosen? Bearing in mind the contents of the National Insurance scheme and of other pension schemes, it seems to me that a lower age, perhaps 65, or even 60, might have been more appropriate than 70. That is a matter which should engage our attention, and I think that we should ask for an explanation of how 70 comes to be the age.

Second, do these widows' pensions and children's allowances vary in amount—as undoubtedly the fire service widows' pensions and children's allowances vary—according to the way in which a police officer meets his death? It seems to me that we should try to avoid artificial distinctions. If an officer meets his death in the course of duty there should be no artificial distinction—as in the case of the fire regulations—as to what the officer's attitude towards the risk of death was at the time he died. I hope that the Minister will explain the position with regard to any variation effected by the way in which a police officer meets his death, and perhaps give us some hope for a rationalisation of the position in the future.

10.51 p.m.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

With your permission, and that of the House, Mr. Speaker, I should like to reply briefly to the points raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton). On the question of the number of police widows, I regret that I have not that information available at the moment, but I shall write to the right hon. and learned Member as soon as I have obtained it.

Secondly, on the question whether or not it would be appropriate to proceed by way of fresh regulations, this has not been the practice in relation to the police pensions regulations; this is the fourth set of regulations since the first set was made under the principal regulations in 1966. In two or three years' time it may be appropriate to consolidate, but I do not think that it will be necessary to do so sooner than that.

Thirdly, I have been asked why it is that the age of 70 is set out as the point where there is augmentation of the flat rate pension. All I can say is that this was decided by Parliament in Section 2 of the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1962, and that as far as I am aware there is full agreement on this point on the part of the Police Council. However, I note what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said on this matter.

The last question was whether the regulations vary as to amount, dependent upon the circumstances in which the police officer met his death. The police pensions regulations provide that where an officer's death results from an attack or from injuries received in the course of duty performed for the purpose of effecting an arrest of preventing an escape from legal custody the widow is entitled to a pension, inclusive of National Insurance benefit, equal to at least half her late husband's average pensionable pay plus a gratuity that amounts, in practice, to approximately £2,600.

I would not go so far as to say that this scheme is completely free from anomalies. I can tell the House that proposals to extend the scope of such awards will be examined in consultation with the Police Council.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Police Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 23rd April, be approved.