HC Deb 18 July 1977 vol 935 cc1321-42

11.46 p.m.

Mr. Michael Alison (Barkston Ash)

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Police (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1977 (S.I., 1977, No. 1006), dated 11th June 1977, a copy of which was laid before this House on 20th June, be annulled.

The Opposition are glad of the opportunity afforded by the familiar device of a Prayer to discuss police pay in the context of the Police (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1977. The regulations imposed—I use the word advisedly—a stage 2 settlement on the federated ranks of the police service against the wishes of the Police Federation and its members. As such, it is in my view the end of an extremely sorry chapter in the saga of relations between the Government and the police service. I do not think that at any time since the police strike of 1918 has police confidence in its sponsoring Government Department, the Home Office, or morale generally in the service sunk so low.

It was not of the Opposition's choosing that we should be debating these regulations at close to midnight at this stage in the parliamentary Session. On two earlier occasions recently we pressed for a debate but the Governmen declined at the last moment and took the business off the Order Paper. The reason was that on those earlier occasions the Grunwick picketing violence was at its zenith and thus the almost intolerable strain placed on police officers was only too painfully manifest in the television reporting of the scenes in North London which millions of viewers saw.

The risk to police life and limb, placing their work on a par with other hazardous occupations such as mining or seafaring, was horribly exemplified by the murderous attack on that young police constable who, I believe, was at one time within an inch of losing his life. The Government realised what a debate on this imposed pay settlement would have looked like at the height of the Grunwick picketing as police officers were being borne on stretchers to ambulances.

The first point to be made is that the police have had no pay increase since September 1975. Second, since then the index of retail prices has risen by about 30 per cent., so that police pay has dropped by that amount in real terms since the last pay rise. Third, police officers in some parts of the country are drawing family income supplement—the bottom end "safety net" for low wage occupations. Fourth, even the 1975 pay settlement failed to bring the average police constable's pay up to the Willink Royal Commission standard—that is, 104 per cent. of average adult non-manual male earnings.

Now, two years later, police pay must have sunk to about 70 per cent. of that average. What a way to pay the police force in a period of growing violence and criminality not seen in these islands for at least 200 years. In elaboration of this appalling slippage in police pay, I understand that the distinguished economist who advises the Police Federation has reported to it that a study of the Police Force Statistics return for 1975–76"— a technical document— reveals that for 41 police authorities in England and Wales the total salary and wage bill was £280.24 million for an average daily strength of 82,360. This gives a weekly average of £65.26. That was at the time of the 1975 settlement. I hope that the Under-Secretary's Home Office review body, in considering the future pattern of negotiations for police pay—and particularly the settlement due on 1st September this year—will note that at least one distinguished economist reckons that the weekly average for the police at the time of their last settlement was only £65.26. At the same time the comparable average for adult non-manual male workers, the group with which the police are meant to be compared, was £10 a week more. That was in 1975. By September 1977 the comparable average is likely to be at least £30 more than the £65 the police were getting at their last settlement. This shows the shocking extent to which the police have fallen behind in comparability terms since their last settlement.

Yet the regulations that we are looking at tonight are utterly barren of any glimmer of recognition that the police, faced with quite exceptional strains, have faced quite exceptional slippage. I do not imagine that there is any group of people dependent upon the public service recognising their relativity—because they have no trade union to fight for them—which has suffered slippage to the extent to which the police have suffered in relative terms since 1975, yet no mention is made of this in the regulations and no concession is made to their claim for a stage 1 increase. There is nothing specific about fringe benefits. It is, indeed, the end of a very sorry chapter.

But it is not the end of the story, and it is ironic—I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) will agree with me on this—that the negative and unhelpful attitude which the Government have displayed in this imposed stage 2 settlement will leave a great vacuum of legitimate discontent and of unsettled dues to be carried over into the new era of collective bargaining which the Chancellor ushered in with his statement last Friday. Indeed, I believe that the Government may before long rue the day that led them to hold down the police service so fiercely in stages 1 and 2, leaving this yawning gap between the actual position and real merit as we move into this freer area of collective bargaining.

The hon. Lady will know that the 12-months rule, as it applies in connection with the existing regulations, expires in September this year. It therefore behoves the Minister, since the application of the regulations will expire before the House meets again in the autumn, to take away some of the sour and bitter taste which the regulations will leave in the mouths of the police service by spelling out, first, what undertakings Ministers —from the Prime Minister, in his exchanges with the Police Federation in Downing Street, downwards—have given in the context of the discussions which have led up to the regulations we are discussing tonight. What undertakings have they given about a better deal after September? What are these undertakings in terms of possible fringe benefits and in terms of a better pay deal than the 5 per cent. they are getting under the regulations?

What silver lining can the hon. Lady, with her golden tongue, impart tonight to these leaden regulations with which we are faced? I hope that she will produce a silver lining, because the regula- tions standing on their own simply will not do.

Secondly, can the hon. Lady commit the Home Office and the present Home Secretary to the view that, in the context of the unprecedented strain now placed on the police service and the profound loss of morale and confidence resulting from its slippage in the earnings league, police pay must be considered as one of the cases representing, in the Chancellor's own words on Friday, "the most serious difficulties" which alone can be tackled by above-average settlements in the next 12 months?

The hon. Lady should bear in mind that according to the professional economic advice available to the Police Federation, and no doubt to her own Department, police pay would need to increase this coming September by 26.5 per cent. to re-establish the relativity with average adult non-manual male earnings which the September 1975 settlement represented. The figure will be much higher by mid-1978. If we take the mid-term of the 12 months starting September 1977, I imagine that it would have to increase by well over 30 per cent. in order to get back to the relative position of September 1975.

It will not do to expect the police service to help keep down the average level of settlement in the public sector to single figures, because it is in an exposed and vulnerable position and must be among those who have what the Chancellor called "the most serious difficulties"

Thirdly, where and how does the hon. Lady envisage that negotiations for the next pay date—lst September 1977—will take place and in what forum? Will it be directly between the Home Office and the Police Federation? Will the review body which the Home Secretary has decided to set up, and of which the Secretary of State for Scotland gave us notice earlier this week, have produced its recommendations about the negotiating forum by September? If not, how and in what way will the hon. Lady's Department negotiate the 1st September pay claim with the federation?

We all know that a new economic era was ushered in by the collapse of the social contract and the return to free collective bargaining as announced by the Chancellor on Friday. We now know the details. It is certainly likely to usher in a new era of industrial wage negotiations, and it is extremely unlikely that it will be free of dispute. It certainly will not do for the Government—I hope that the hon. Lady will note this—to use the police service, as they have done in the post, as the fall guy in their attempt to keep public sector settlements down. There will be too many police officers falling in the streets in the coming months, as there have been in the past, for this to be a realistic policy.

The police must be paid properly, otherwise the police service will be unable to maintain the thin blue line between the law-abiding citizen and the violent mobs of which we have only too unpleasant testimony and evidence in the Grunwick dispute. I hope that the hon. Lady will therefore do something to encourage the service and the public about the way that the police should be treated in future.

11.59 a.m.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

I understand from the Order Paper that we are discussing the application of the present stage 2 pay policy to police officers. That is why the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) referred to the 5 per cent. and to the allowance of £208.

What I would ask: my hon. Friend the Minister to look at now is the future. We hear a great deal today about the thoughts of great people, especially of great men. I wonder whether we can have any thoughts from my hon. Friend about what is to happen to police conditions of service now that we are about to embark upon an orderly advance to free collective bargaining.

I should like to draw attention to the fact that the pay of a police officer completing his first year of service is exactly £2,276. That is about £45 a week gross; it cannot be more than £30 a week take-home. How anyone can survive on that at present is beyond me. Even an officer who has fulfilled his years of incremental increases and has now reached the ceiling of his earnings after 15 years receives only £3,194. That is about £64 a week gross, not take-home. When all deductions are made, it will probably be slightly more than £40.

That is no way to encourage people to join our police, and I should like to know from my hon. Friend what her views are on the possibility of raising police rates of pay substantially after this stage of the pay policy comes to an end on 31st July. There are several ways in which she can help.

I am surprised that it should take anyone 15 years to reach the maximum of his salary. Even the period that it takes a teacher to reach the maximum has been reduced. Here is one area in which my hon. Friend could lend her weight, which would be of considerable assistance to police officers.

Anther aspect which irritates me is that of overtime rates—the "special" rate, as it is known. The special rate is a "phoney" for underpaying people who work additional time. The special rate for a police officer works out at about one and one-third times his normal hourly rate. If he worked anywhere else he would get time and a half, and on a Saturday it would be double time. In certain industries, if he worked on a Sunday it would be treble time. In my view, there is adequate room for my hon. Friend to apply her mind in that direction without getting involved too deeply in whatever arrangement is made after 31st July.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he did not want earnings to rise above 10 per cent. If it is to be 10 per cent., I hope that my hon. Friend will give some thought to all the fringe benefits that exist. I do not know how to compare other people's work with that of a police officer, but I know that a friend of mine, who happens to be a joiner, earns as much as £136 per week when he is working overtime. He does not work a night shift. He does not work on Saturday night and on Sunday night, as the policeman does, yet he can take home that sort of figure, and quite within the pay policy. If it can be within the pay policy for a joiner, it should be within the pay policy to give a police officer decent, reasonable trade union overtime rates. I ask my hon. Friend to look in this direction with a view to helping in the struggle for better conditions of service and increased pay for our police officers.

I have had some association with the police. For years I was a convener. That is why I am speaking in this debate. I know many of the conditions to which they must submit themselves. I know the nature of their work. I know their irregular hours. I have seen the contribution they make to safeguard the lives of people and property in our society.

In this life we get only what we pay for. If we pay for the right men and women, we shall have the right police force to preserve law and order and to submit themselves to inconvenience. We should remember that on Christmas Day, or on New Year's Day in Scotland, and at the time of the West of Scotland annual holidays which are taking place now, every place is closed down except the police stations. The police do not enjoy these statutory holidays with their wives and kiddies. They do not go away to celebrate and enjoy the holiday that they have earned after working a year.

Surely we should bear these things in mind. The police are ordinary men and women with families and parents, and we should ensure that their advantages are such that we may look forward with great confidence to their services to our community. I have no greater feeling of security than when I see a policeman coming down the street. If we want law and order, we must ensure that these men and women, giving such exemplary service at irregular times, are well and truly and satisfactorily rewarded for doing so.

12.7 a.m.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

I warmly support the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey). These are reflected in the hearts and minds of all people in this country.

In these regulations the Government are not doing justice to the police. The 5 per cent. increase is grossly inadequate. This is a question not of the cost of living but of law and order. Law and order is very much under attack today—the crime rate is rising, and there is disorder and lawlessness on the streets. It is time the Government considered these aspects rather than the cost of living.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) referred to the report of the Willink Commission, which suggested that police pay should be 4 per cent. above average industrial earn- ings. If Governments since then had adhered to that recommendation we would not have had the difficulties that we face today. We would not have had recruitment problems, or such a rise in crime, and the police would have been far more contented.

Unfortunately, because we do not pay the police enough we have had considerable recruitment difficulties, and we do not have as much choice of the right men for the purposes we require. The rate that we now pay them is only 70 per cent. of average industrial earnings, instead of the 104 per cent. that we should be paying. Is it any wonder that we are nearly 5,000 short of establishment in London, and that that figure is rising. I understand that figures reported only this week show a further drop.

Outside Grunwick the other day 4,000 Metropolitan policemen—one-fifth of the total—were on duty to deal with something which should not have occurred in a proper law-abiding society if the Government were determined to maintain law and order and not to give encouragement, as some Labour Members have done, to the lawless elements involved in that affair. We have never needed good policemen so badly. That is why these regulations are fearfully inadequate.

But the position is even worse than my hon. Friend said. Overtime has made a great difference to police officers, at least in London. It is a matter for wonder that people who work long hours in order to earn more money should not get credit for doing so. It is to our shame that police officers are working 10 or 20 hours extra a week to earn a living wage. Any London police officer knows that if overtime were removed it would make a great difference to his take-home pay and to meeting his weekly budget.

Mr. Joseph Harper (Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household)

That applies to any industry, not just the police.

Mr. Stanbrook

But the position of the police is fundamental to law and order and far more important than that of any other section of the community, except perhaps the Armed Forces. We have to have ordered priorities. The fact that the police are happy to work overtime to increase their salaries is a matter of shame to us, because of their special position. Instead, as the Government claim, of ensuring that expenditure on police emoluments is not cut, they have made a cut by means of overtime. There is now a new system of control of overtime for Metropolitan Police officers. In a Written Answer on 7th July this year, the Home Secretary said: The Commissioner has recently decided to introduce a new system for the control of overtime worked in the Metropolitan Police. The effect of this will be to maintain the total financial provision for overtime in the force at the same level in 1977–78 as it was in 1976–77. While it is not possible to say precisely what effect these new controls will have on the number of hours overtime worked by individual officers, I understand that, on average, any effect could be small. The Commissioner does not intend that the new procedures should inhibit the operational needs of the force in any way."—[Official Report 7th July 1977; Vol. 934, c. 628.] He may not intend it—he is a new man, and I hope that he is learning rapidly—but that is what the new arrangements will mean. There will be an inhibition of operational needs as a result of limiting cash payments for overtime to the level of last year, if only because of the fall in the value of money.

One has to go to Regulation No. 25 of the main regulations—the Police Regulations 1971—to see why it will not be possible to limit cash payments in this way without creating great injustice to police officers and inhibiting police work. After all, when a police officer is engaged upon an investigation and his normal hours have been passed he would not be expected to give up work and to return home saying that his day was done. An officer is not specifically ordered or told to continue his work on an investigation. Of course not. We expect him to continue, and that is the normal thing. Being the men that they are, the police carry on investigating and working on their duties. For that reason it is simply impossible to lay down precisely how much overtime will be done by a police officer. As a result of that, the regulation that concerns overtime, regulation 25, is fairly flexible and clear. It says: where a member of a police force…remains on duty after his tour of duty ends…. he shall be granted…in respect of each unit of time during which he so remains on duty after his tour of duty ends…an equal period of time off. A unit of time is 15 minutes. The significance of that regulation is that while every policeman is entitled to time off in respect of overtime, that time will be given only where the exigencies of the service, in the opinion of the chief officer, permit. The regulation continues: If…time off is not granted within such time (not exceeding 3 months) after that week as the chief officer of the police may fix, the member…shall be granted for each unit of overtime worked during that week for which time off has not been granted an allowance of a twenty-fourth of a day's pay In other words, the position is that where a policeman remains on duty after his normal hours he will be granted time off if the exigencies of the service permit. However, if time off is not granted within three months the police officer will be paid cash in lieu. Therefore, if the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis really intends to limit the amount of money that is paid in respect of overtime he will have a difficult operation to conduct. He will have to adjust the time off within each three-month period to reduce the balance of time for which there will be cash payments to the level required. The Commissioner will then have to predetermine, somehow, how much overtime will be worked. Anyone who says that operational requirements will not be affected does not know anything of police work.

That is the situation. Quite clearly the spirit of the regulations will be broken by the new controls that have been announced by the Home Secretary. I tabled a Question to the Home Secretary on that point. I asked: in view of the fact that certain divisional commanders of the Metropolitan Police have imposed limits on cash payments for overtime worked by the Criminal Investigation Department officers to a fixed proportion of that paid in 1976 to all officers in the same division, if he will take steps to insist on observance by divisional commanders of the letter and spirit of Police Regulations covering this subject. The right hon. Gentleman replied. Arrangements for the control of overtime in the Metropolitan Police, and their administration by divisional commanders, are matters for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis."—[0fficial Report, 15th July 1977; Vol. 935, c. 277–8.] Apparently the Home Secretary had not read the regulations to see the difficulties that will arise operationally. I have been told that a divisional commander at Tower Hill has calculated how much money was spend on overtime last year and the proportion of that which was paid to the CID—which was 11 per cent. —and has said that of the money now available 11 per cent. will be available for the CID.

What nonsense is this? What better way could there be of interrupting, disorganising and confusing police work? It will be impossible to apply these rules from day to day. No chief of police or divisional commander will be able to say that a policeman may do one hour's overtime because the time off that he may be granted has been allowed for within the next three months, and that sufficient cash will be left to pay for the rest of his overtime. The chiefs will say that the work must be done. They will send the men out and the result will be a thoroughly dissatisfied police service and greater confusion and dissatisfaction than ever.

In the end, it will mean that individual officers will be paid far less than at present. The estimate of one London division is that its officers will suffer by £11 a week because of this arbitrary limit of cash payments on overtime. Officers will be reluctant to do overtime, and their take home pay will be considerably reduced.

If the Government wish to avoid that they should look at the regulations and the control of overtime again and say that while the police must adhere to any incomes policy, separate regulations will be introduced and will not apply to overtime that is properly and legitimately worked in the interests of the people.

12.22 a.m.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I congratulate my hon. Friends on their valuable contributions to the night shift. My hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) put the case for the police service eloquently and effectively. I endorse every word that he uttered and I hope that the Minister will take his remarks seriously. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) for having raised so wisely the problem of overtime in the Metropolitan Police, which is having a serious and damaging effect on the morale of the CID.

The House knows my interest. Over the weekend, the miners made clear their views about the next stage of the incomes policy. Today, the doctors have done so. This debate is the first opportunity for the view of the police service to be heard.

It is all the more sad and disgraceful that the Government have deliberately organised the debate so that the House will be virtually empty—once again, there is no member of the Liberal Party in the Chamber—and the vast majority of the Press will have no opportunity of recording it for the benefit of the public and the police service. It is another example of the shabby way in which the Government have dealt with police business in the past two years.

I am sure that the majority of hon. Members agree with me that the first social service that a Government owe to the people is the maintenance of law and order. We are not doing very well. Law and order in this country is at risk as seldom before, and the police are not winning the battle. I do not say that they are losing it, but they are barely holding their own.

Perhaps I can put it in simple terms —in terms of some things that have gone up and of others that have gone down. The crime rate has gone up massively. Violence has gone up alarmingly. Political and industrial unrest have gone up, and are likely still further to increase. Simultaneously, police recruiting is down. Police cadet numbers are down. Police overtime is down. Police pay is disgracefully down. The only thing in the police service that I know to have gone up is the numbers who are leaving the service.

There was one sad example tonight of a police constable with 11 years service in this House. He has resigned the service not because he wishes to do so; he loves his job with the police. He has gone to be an electrician, because in that way he will get more pay. He is not alone. All over the country hundreds of well-trained and dedicated men are now voting with their feet. They are leaving the service at a time when crime and violence and unrest are rising against us.

The order introduces the first pay increase that the police have had since September 1975. That fact alone is a disgrace. I wonder whether there is another occupation that has had no increase since September 1975 and that would have stood for it as the police have. Any other group—the face or surface workers in the coal mining industry, the transport workers, the power workers—faced with the fact of no pay increase since that date, would have been on the streets. If the police had followed the example of other more violent groups and had been hammering at the doors of this place the Government might have met their just demands.

The police, however, have been handicapped and exploited because of their sense of responsibility. They have not been prepared to use the same industrial muscle as other groups have used to get their own way. I had never imagined that the police service of this country would vote, as it did, to take the power to strike. That decision was taken at the Police Federation conference, and the decision was almost unanimous. It was taken with great reluctance, because no police officer that I know wishes to take strike action. The fact that the decision was taken is a measure of the Government's failure to deal with the just demands of the police service, that most loyal and dedicated body of police officers in the world, who have been driven down the road to industrial action.

This settlement has been imposed, and that, too, is quite wrong. When the Prime Minister was adviser to the Police Federation, a post that I have the honour to fill today, he warned on one occasion, when a Conservative Home Secretary saw fit to impose a relatively minor settlement in respect of police widows' pensions, that if it could happen in that small field it might come that a Home Secretary would seek to impose an entire pay settlement on the service. That warning was prophetic, although at the time it was uttered no one in the police service and no one in the Government imagined that it would ever come true.

How sad it is, how ironical it is and how disgraceful it is that it should be the Administration of the same right hon. Gentleman, the present Prime Minister, that has now imposed this settlement. In effect, it has stuffed down the throat of the police service a settlement that its lawfully and democratically elected statutory body rejected as wholly inadequate. The settlement fails, because it is imposed. I must tell the House that it is not acceptable, for the classic reason that it is far too little and it has come far too late. It is too little by any measure.

I put before the hon. Lady three specifics. The first concerns the measure of inflation. I shall not weary the House by quoting Professor Nevin's figures, but clearly the police service has fallen far behind. While most of the others have been able to keep pace with inflation, the police service has found itself falling further and further behind.

Secondly, the settlement is not acceptable in terms of the measure of comparability with settlements that have been received by others. The police service was excluded from phase 1. It did not get the £6 award that was available for all other workers. In phase 2 the police were awarded the £2.50 or the 5 per cent., depending on rank. Since phase 2 the Home Secretary has claimed again and again—indeed, he has boasted —that there are to be no exceptions. In fact, there have been exceptions. The seamen were made an exception because they threatened to strike. The Windscale power workers were an exception because they went on strike.

Under phase 2 the police could and should have been given the fringe benefits that hour after hour and week after week were negotiated between the federation and the Government, which at the end of the day the Government refused to provide. It was stupid and insensitive on the part of the Home Office to fail to uphold that package of fringe benefits, which could have brought about a settlement within phase 2.

Above all, the settlement is too little and too late by the real measure of what our police service is worth. In any settlement we must have regard to the relevance and importance of the occupation. When I see some of the facts as provided by Professor Nevin I am bound to say that the police have had a shabby deal. Between 1960 and 1975, when policy strength in England and Wales increased by 47 per cent., the number of indictable offences known to the police increased by more than 180 per cent. That is a measure of the increasing work load that the police have had to bear. For every 100 vehicles on the roads in Britain in 1960 there were 185 by 1975.

Again, that is an illustration of the increasing work load on the police.

In the six years between 1969 and 1975 the number of crimes of violence against the person in England and Wales increased by no less than 88 per cent. It is not, therefore, surprising that over the decade 1965–75, when the number of fatal accidents in British industry fell by 40 per cent., the number of claims by police officers in respect of criminal injuries inflicted on them when on duty increased more than 15 times. That illustrates conclusively that the police have not had in their salary anything like recognition of the added work load.

As my hon. Friend said in his admirable speech, the real test of the order is whether the Under-Secretary of State will be able to look forward and at least partially make amends for the shabby treatment that has been meted out over the past two years. I hold her to that for two specific reasons. First, the Home Secretary, at the Scarborough conference of the Police Federation, was asked by its chairman "Are the police a special case or are they not?" The Home Secretary categorically replied that in his view the police were a special case. I ask the Under-Secretary of State to say how those words are to be translated by the Government into facts, figures and money under phase 3 of the incomes policy.

Secondly, the Prime Minister, at a meeting at No. 10, which I attended with representatives of the federation, said that in his view the police should return to the Willink formula. The hon. Lady no doubt has access to the record of that interview with the Prime Minister. Is it now the intention to honour the Prime Minister's undertaking that, one way or another, the route must be found to return the police service to the levels of the Willink formula?

I shall put numbers on that formula Simply to return to the levels of the 1975 settlement—the minimum that must be achieved in a September settlement—it will be necessary to add about 26 per cent. to the present pay of the police. That is based on the relation between the police pay and the average weekly earnings of adult male non-manual workers.

In addition to that, to deal with the way in which the police have fallen behind it will be necessary to take account of the new earnings increase in the projected phase 3. If that is to be 10 per cent., as suggested by the Chancellor, an additional 10 per cent. on top of the 26 per cent. will be required. If the settlement turns out to be 15 per cent. or higher, the necessary movement in police pay will be about 40 per cent.

On top of that, to deal with the problem of prices the best advice that I can get is that a further increase of 6.5 per cent. will be needed. So, simply to return to the levels of the 1975 settlement, an increase of not less than 40 per cent. will be required..

That is only the beginning. It is not a matter of returning to the 1975 position; it is a matter of returning to the Willink formula. Unfortunately, the 1975 settlement represents a substantial erosion of the Willink formula. I should be happy to provide the figures. Broadly speaking, there was an erosion of about 9 pet cent. between the Willink settlement of 1960 and the 1975 settlement. For a sergeant at his maximum, there was an erosion of about 6 per cent.; for an inspector at his maximum, there was an erosion of about 7 per cent. Those are the amounts by which the allegedly generous settlement of 1975 itself eroded and degenerated the settlement of Willink in 1960..

I have to say to the hon. Lady that it will be by no means sufficient for the Government to come forward in September and suggest a return to the 1975 settlement. What the Federation is looking for—rightly, in my view—is, first, a return to the Willink formula; which will throw out figures substantially higher than 40 per cent. It may be that in order to achieve this there will need to be two bites at the cherry. It may be that in September the Government will come forward and there will be negotiations, and that a return involving the substantial figures that I have mentioned—close on 40 per cent.—will be acceptable on the understanding that the first bite of the cherry is the 1975 settlement and the second bite, lying ahead, is a return to Willink early in the new year..

But if the hon. Lady's officials imagine for a moment that the 1975 formula will suffice they will have to think again. The best possible way in which to make this order acceptable to the police service is an early return to 1975, a forward commitment to Willink, and an understanding that in the future the police service will be properly rewarded for the four things that set it apart from virtually every other occupation in this country..

The first of these principles is the constant commitment of the police constable to his duty—a 24-hour responsibility; the second is the unique danger that he, as a civilian under discipline, must accept; the third is the need for a career structure with adequate differentials; the fourth is the anti-social hours of police work itself. These four principles will need to be recognised, and recognised generously, in any future settlement the police service is to do its vital job.

l do not envy the hon. Lady her task in having to reply to the debate. I have no doubt that she will do it competently and fluently. But I say this to her personally; the police service today is in turmoil. The police are our only effective guardian against a breakdown of law and order. A very heavy responsibility lies on the Government for having damaged police morale, and I hope that tonight the hon. Lady will try to undo some of that damage in the interests of all our citizens.

12.43 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Dr. Shirley Summer-skill)

This is the fourth time in a matter of weeks in which the House has had occasion to discuss police pay. It was the subject of a debate on 16th May. A few days later, on 19th May, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made his statement about his intention to make the regulations awarding a pay increase to the federated ranks of the police in line with phase 2 of the Government's pay policy. Then, as recently as last Tuesday, the House debated the prevention of crime—a subject which naturally gave rise to further discussion of police pay.

If the House is devoting more time to the police, that is to be welcomed. No topic is of greater importance to the well-being of our society. One general point does, however, bear constant repetition, and I should like to start with it. The police in this country perform a uniquely difficult job, and they perform it to a standard that is unparalleled anywhere else. Whatever our differences with the Police Federations, we shall not lose sight of that. I want, therefore, to emphasise right away that the Government are wholehearted in their support for the police.

The hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) mentioned the Grunwick dispute, That dispute has been made much more difficult than it need have been by the activities of extremists of one kind or another, who have exploited a genuine industrial dispute in order to achieve their own ends. We deplore that and applaud the work of the police in containing the very difficult situation that has developed at Grunwick.

Before I turn to the regulations I am able to say something more about a review of the negotiating machinery for police pay. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland told the House on 12th July that the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and he had decided to set up a review of the police negotiating machinery, and he announced the terms of reference. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that distinguished Lord of Appeal, Lord Edmund-Davies, has accepted an invitation from the Secretaries of State to chair the review. The other members of the review will be appointed as soon as possible and I hope that the review body will be able to start work quickly. If the agreed machinery can be introduced quickly in the light of the review body's recommendations, as we hope, it will then be for that body to look at pay.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

The hon. Lady has announced that Lord Edmund-Davies is to be the chairman and I hope that she will be able to announce the names of the other members quickly. I am interested in her suggestion that when it emerges the new machinery will be able to deal with pay. However, if it is not available before September, and that seems most unlikely, how does the hon. Lady propose that the pay settlement in September should be dealt with? Is it to be done directly with her Department? Let me say to her quite bluntly that there is no way in which the Police Federation is going back to the Police Council.

Dr. Summerskill: As the body has only just been set up, I cannot anticipate how quickly it will be able to report. Naturally, we would urge it to report as quickly as possible, I cannot say exactly when that will be, but I hope that it will take the point that the hon. Member has made.

I turn now to the regulations. The decision made by my right hon. Friend to make and lay these regulations was taken only after long and careful consideration. But the House will recall that the Police Federations for England and Wales and Northern Ireland withdrew from the negotiating body, the Police Council. After careful consideration in consultation with the official side of the council, an offer was made to the federations. This reflected the most that could be offered under phase 2 of pay policy and also offered improvements in certain fringe benefits when pay policy permitted. As I say, that offer represented the limit under phase 2, and its rejection brought about an impasse.

As my right hon. Friend explained to the House on 19th May, members of the police had received no increase in pay since September 1975. My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State considered that something had to be done to get the money already offered into the pockets of the police and their families. The process of consultation has therefore been completed and the regulations brought into effect with as much speed as practicable.

The regulations were, of course, made without the concurrence of the Police Federations, but the Home Secretary is required by Section 4(4) of the Police Act 1969 to take into consideration any recommendation made by the Police Council and to furnish members of the council with a draft of each set of regulations. This was done before the announcement was made in the House on 19th May. A recommendation made by the Police Federation was accepted by my right hon. Friend and a revised draft was then circulated. There were no further recommendations of substance made and the regulations were made on 11th June, coming into operation on 27th June. I have made it clear that a better offer to the police for the current year just could not be made under phase 2.

Hon. Members have naturally asked me about the next round. It is far too soon to say a great deal about the settlement in the next round, which will be due as from 1st September, but I should like to give some indication of our approach.

There will be some scope for flexibility in negotiations in the next round. My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State are as anxious as anyone to ensure a settlement that rewards members of the police service fairly for the demanding and responsible work that they carry out with the skill and devotion to which hon. Members have rightly paid tribute. I assure the House that the case for police pay put by the federation will be carefully and sympathetically considered.

I must emphasise, however, that the police, like everyone else, are affected by the economic circumstances of the country. They will benefit if the rate of inflation is brought down. They cannot be left outside the pay policy on which the Government's efforts to tackle inflation depend. The negotiations on the next round of police pay must, of course, be conducted on the basis of the pay policy on which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has so recently made his statement.

I have listened very carefully to the proposals of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), but tonight I cannot give any specific undertakings. However, I should like to make one or two points against the background of the Chancellor's statement.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary accepts that in relation to the cost of living police pay has fallen below the level of September 1975. He also accepts that the increase in crime has increased the work load on the police and, in consequence, the stress to which they are subject. This stress is exacerbated by the increasing violence in society, bringing with it an increased risk of injury, or worse, to police officers.

One of the problems that the discussions of recent months have highlighted has been the fact that there has been no agreement about the current level of police pay. A survey conducted by the then Joint Secretaries of the Police Council showed police earnings in March 1976 at a level which the Police Federation subsequently would not accept. The figures were, of course, averages and it was therefore inevitable that some individual police officers would be earning less than the average figure. Of perhaps more importance in the context was the fact that throughout the Police Federation left out of account in its calculations the value of the house or rent allowance to which every police officer is entitled. I am afraid that my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), who is obviously extremely concerned with the pay figures of individual policemen, did not mention that aspect in his speech.

Hon. Members who have seen the cost of mortgages rise, rates rise, and the cost of maintenance of property rise, will appreciate how valuable an asset a free house really is; and this is a benefit that the police receive effectively tax-free. I hope, therefore, that the federation will feel able to take this properly into account in future discussions on pay. The Government consider—and I am sure the House would agree—that any fair assessment of earnings must include the value of housing.

The Police Council has set up a working group to establish the current level of police pay and a new earnings survey is being, conducted. It will be some weeks before the considered views of that working group are available. The Police Federation is unfortunately not participating in its work, but I understand that the federation itself is preparing a case on pay, and we await the results.

With regard to the points raised by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) about overtime in the Metropolitan Police, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has not issued any directive that overtime in the Metropolitian Police should be reduced. The Commissioner has recently decided, as a matter of good judgment, to introduce a new and more effective system for the control of overtime in the force. The financial provisions for overtime in the force as a whole this year are the same as those made last year and there is certainly no intention that these new controls should in any way interfere with the operational needs of the force.

If the money currently set aside in the force's estimates to cover overtime proves insufficient to meet these needs, because of the number of special events in London this year, or for any other reason, it will be increased. A fair pay settlement can be achieved only by negotiations conducted in a cool and rational spirit. For my part, I very much hope that a settlement can be achieved which will be satisfactory to all sides. Those who, like my right hon. Friends, are well aware of the need for a police force with high morale and confidence in their role in maintaining law and order, know the great importance of reaching an agreed settlement.

Mr. Alison

In the context of the background to the forthcoming negotiations, will the Minister clear up a couple of points? Can she reassure us that the fringe benefit offer that was associated with the pay offer that has now come into the regulations—obviously fringe benefits cannot come into the regulations—will be carried forward automatically as a standing offer in the next round of pay negotiations? Can she reaffirm the Government's support, as the Prime Minister said, for the Willink formula of 104 per cent. relativity as to average adult male non-manual earnings?

Dr. Summerskill

The fringe benefit were part of the stage 2 negotiations, which, as the House knows, did not reach a satisfactory conclusion. Consequently, we have these regulations. I cannot anticipate stage 3 beyond what I have said this evening. It would be wrong, so soon after the Chancellor's statement, to make any dogmatic statements about what stage 3 will hold. I hope that hon. Members will study what I have said. The matters to which the hon. Member for Barkston Ash has referred will obviously be considered during negotiations on stage 3.

A fair settlement is essential if we are to maintain law and order. Sorry though my right hon. Friend was that agreement could not be reached on phase 2 increases, implemented by these regulations, he thought it imperative that the police should receive the increases that pay policy permits. I am sure that even those who consider this to be insufficient would not wish to prevent the regulations being carried tonight. Then the House, the police and the Government, can look forward to stage 3.

Question put and negatived