HC Deb 05 May 1977 vol 931 cc638-40
24. Sir John Hall

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what information he has received about the number of policemen's families who have applied for family income supplement; and how many families have applied for financial help from the various police benevolent funds over the last complete12 months.

Dr. Summerskill

Police forces are not necessarily informed of applications for or payment of family income supplement, but I have been told of 31 applications, 13 of which were successful.

A policeman in his first year of service would qualify for family income supplement only if he had at least four children and received no overtime pay, assuming that he was living in a provided house.

Force benevolent funds have been in existence for many years and, amongst other things, make grants and loans to meet short-term problems in particular cases. I understand that in the 12 months to 31st March 1977 about 470 grants and loans were made.

Sir J. Hall

Does the Minister agree that there is increasing evidence of the need for policemen to apply for aid from one source or another? At a time when in many counties overtime opportunities are being restricted and when, under the terms and conditions of service, policemen are not allowed to take second jobs or take lodgers in their own homes, is it not rather disgraceful that their present rate of pay makes it essential for them, to look elsewhere for help?.

Dr. Summerskill

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the figures that I have read out are evidence of a very great number of married police officers who are applying for family income supplement. The number is in fact relatively small, considering the total number of people in the police force.

Mr. Hooson

Although the number of officers receiving family income supplement that was cited is small, is it not nevertheless disturbing to the country that police officers have to resort to this? In this month's issue of the magazine Police details are set out of the police case on their claim for pay, and various cases are cited. Will the Home Office present the departmental answer to the allegations made in this statement, so that hon. Members will have the opportunity to judge for themselves whether or not the case is well-founded?

Dr. Summerskill

I repeat that for a policeman to qualify he has to have at least four children and receive no overtime pay. As for the general pay policy, as the House must know, phase 2 is on the table for the police.

Mr. Mellish

My hon. Friend will be aware that earlier we were given figures about the honesty of policemen, by and large. May I put it to her or to her right hon. Friend that it is very important that as these people are expected to be absolutely perfect in the job they do it is about time that the salaries associated with the job encouraged them to be perfect?

Dr. Summerskill

I remind the House that in phase 1 of the pay policy the police received a 30 per cent. increase, but I still agree that the maintenance of good police pay is essential for the running of the service.

Mr. Whitelaw

Will the hon. Lady take into account that many police officers—I think the House will understand this—may feel that as a matter of pride they should not apply for family income supplement? Secondly, will she convey to her right hon. Friend the fact that all these questions add up to the urgent need to reach a settlement of this very unhappy dispute at the earliest possible moment?

Dr. Summerskill

I certainly agree with the last words of the right hon. Gentleman. Obviously it is up to the police, to some extent, as well as the Government. But I do not think that anybody should be ashamed of claiming family income supplement. It is not a matter either of pride or of shame.