HC Deb 20 December 1989 vol 164 cc354-5
13. Mr. Shersby

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the financial effect on police officers in provided accommodation arising from the recommendations of the police arbitration tribunal.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The effect on police officers would vary according to the level of the relevant community charge, the amount of the proposed force housing allowance and the rent charged for the accommodation provided.

Mr. Shersby

Is my hon. Friend aware that the rent charged for police provided accommodation can be higher than the housing allowance payable? Is he further aware that officers in Scotland will have to pay rent, the community charge, income tax and an 11 per cent. contribution towards their pensions? Is he also aware that new entrants to the force will be substantially worse off than serving officers in post on 31 March 1990? What does he think that the effect of that will be on recruitment and on the maintenance of law and order in Scotland?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

My hon. Friend represents the Police Federation and I am aware of the factors that he mentioned. The regulations will come into effect on 22 December. They will backdate the rent allowance for Scottish police officers, which will be popular with those concerned. My hon. Friend should be aware that we have today received the recommendations from the police negotiating board, but there is a difficulty with the police arbitration tribunal decision about officers occupying provided accommodation who would have to pay more rent than they would receive in housing allowance and that would be a less favourable position than at present. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will give urgent and careful consideration to the recommendations.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Is the Minister aware that that has been going on since April this year? I am asking my question in the interest of my constituents who are in the police force and not because I am being paid by the Police Federation. It is a simple matter to separate that part of the rent from that part of the rates given to police officers as their allowance. That would deal with the problems that have arisen for police officers who live in provided accommodation and which have been caused by the imposition of the poll tax in Scotland. I wrote to the Minister some months ago about this issue and he has had plenty of time to sort it out. It is an absolute disgrace that police officers are still suffering.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The regulations come into effect on 22 December. I am glad that Opposition Members have not prayed against them. The backdated sums will be paid out by many forces before the end of the year. Another problem about the police arbitration tribunal was that it recommended the right to buy for all police houses. In certain remote areas, such houses are not surplus to police requirements and we are duty bound to look into the implications of these matters.

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