HL Deb 11 November 1926 vol 65 cc628-30

Order of the day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, it falls to my duty to move the Second Reading of the Police Pensions Bill. It is a small Bill and consists of two very short clauses, one of which has been the subject of deliberation by a Committee. With regard to Clause 1, the police at the present time make contributions of 2½ per cent. out of their salaries towards their pensions. Sir Auckland Geddes's Committee suggested that that should be increased by another 2½ per cent. and it also added certain deductions from the rent allowances of the police. This was the cause of a good deal of anxiety among the police and a Committee was appointed by the Secretary of State to consider the whole question. The Committee reported in the sense that the deduction with regard to rent allowances should be abolished, but that the contribution towards pension should be increased to five per cent. There were a great many meetings between the police—who, I may add, behaved all through with a great deal of restraint—and the police authorities and the Home Office and an arrangement was arrived at which is practically given effect to in Clause 1 of this Bill. If the Bill is passed the rateable deductions will be at the rate in future of five per cent. of the pay of the policeman. That is a comparatively simple matter and I should think your Lordships would be quite ready to agree to it as it has already met with the assent of all the various parties concerned.

With regard to Clause 2 this arises from the lamentable police strike which occurred in July, 1919. As a consequence of that strike, as your Lordships may remember, a certain number of police were dismissed from the police forces. A great many attempts were made to get these policemen restored to the forces and a Committee was appointed under Sir William Mackenzie which went very carefully into the whole matter. That Committee was appointed by Mr. Henderson in 1924. In 1919 there existed the remains of a, Police Union and this union called out the police in July of that year. Prior to that a great many warnings were issued to the police as to what would be the effect if they did not report for duty when they were called upon to do so and the men were frequently warned on parade. What happened on July 31, 1919, was that some 2,400 police absented themselves from duty without notice. This is not a very large proportion of the 60,000 who are members of our police forces. They were dismissed in accordance with the notices which had been very frequently issued to them, and there was a good deal of agitation in the House of Commons and elsewhere for their restoration.

Accordingly, the Committee to which I have referred was appointed, under the presidency of Sir William Mackenzie, and this Committee gave a very detailed account of the whole occurrence. In the special circumstances of the case and as an act of grace they made a recommendation. I think everyone was fully determined that these men should not be restored to the duty, their duty to the State, which they had deserted in contravention of the contract they had made with the State, but as far as financial considerations were concerned there, was a strong disposition to give them all the assistance possible. A great many of these men had done very good service in times past and no doubt a good many of them were misled. The Committee reported in this sense: that they thought that the deductions towards pensions which had been made from their pay should, if the local police authorities after due consideration desired, be restored to them; that is to say, that the Police Pensions Act of 1921, the principal Act, should be made retrospective so as to include the time covered by the police strike. Accordingly, tinder Clause 2, if a man left the force on retiring (whether voluntarily or as an alternative to dismissal), the police authority may either pay to him the whole or any part of any rateable deductions which had been made from his pay or apply the same in such manner as they think fit for the benefit of his wife or widow or children, if any; or, in the case of men who are dismissed (and this more particularly refers to the strikers), they may in such manner as they think fit apply the whole or any part of such rateable deductions for the benefit of the wife or widow or children.

This clause does not apply to Scotland for two reasons—first, because there was no strike in Scotland, and secondly, because in Scotland there were Acts which already governed the procedure in that period, that is, between 1919 and the passing of the principal Act in 1921. I may add that the local authorities have all been approached and with only two dissentients they are quite willing to agree to the provision suggested by Clause 2. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Desborough.)

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.