§ 4.4 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT JOWITT)
My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Police Pensions Regulations, 1948, a copy of which was presented on June 10, be approved. Your Lordships may recall that during the debates on the Police Pensions Bill in March last, I explained that it was necessary to adapt the police pensions code to take account of the National Insurance Scheme when it came into force on July 5. Policemen—who have previously been one of the excepted classes for State insurance—will, after July 5, be insured both under the general scheme and under the industrial injuries scheme, and it is necessary to make changes in the police pensions code in the light of this fact. The draft Regulations now before the House are proposed to be made under the Police Pensions Act, 1948, and taken together with that Act they replace all the existing legislation dealing with police pensions and form a comprehensive code which applies to all police officers. In the main, therefore, the draft Regulations represent a consolidation of the mass of pensions legislation affecting the police. The opportunity has been taken, however, to clear up some of the questions of doubt which had arisen on the interpretation of the Police Pensions Act, 1921, and of the legislation covering the effects of various kinds of war service on the pensions position of policemen and auxiliaries. Your Lordships must accordingly bear in mind that the new Regulations should be compared in size and complexity, not only with the old 1921 Act, but also with all this other legislation which will cease to have effect on July 5, with, of course, the added complication of fitting the police pensions 174 code into the general scheme of the National Insurance Act and the Industrial Injuries Act.
In the White Paper issued in January of this year, the main provisions proposed for inclusion in the Regulations to be made under Clause 1 of the Police Pensions Bill were summarised, and the Regulations now before the House follow the lines indicated in that White Paper, with amendments where required to implement undertaking—for example, in relation to widows' pensions—given in the course of the passage of the Bill through Parliament. As the Police Pensions Act requires, the Police Council have been consulted about the draft Regulations. Many suggestions were made by the Police Council and, where a unanimous recommendation for a change in the pensions code was made, that change has been incorporated in the draft Regulations. The Regulations thus include a number of differences from the existing code, quite apart from the changes which have necessarily been introduced because of National Insurance.
As your Lordships are aware, a Committee have recently been appointed by the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland, under the chairmanship of Lord Oaksey, to examine the whole field of police conditions of service, including pensions. There are some features of the existing police pensions code in respect of which changes were suggested at the Police Council, but on which the Council were unable to make a unanimous recommendation. In these matters, the existing position has been reproduced in the draft Regulations. This does not mean that the matter cannot be considered further by the Oaksey Committee, which will have the advantage of hearing evidence from all the interested parties, and it will be for the Committee to decide whether to recommend further changes in the police pensions code.
I will give your Lordships a brief outline of the scope of the draft Regulations. Part I describes very broadly the classes which are to receive pensions, the circumstances under which they will receive them, the authorities responsible for paying them, and so on. Subsequent Parts of the Regulations deal with all these topics in much more detail. Part II deals with awards on retirement and disablement. There are two main changes here. The first is the scheme for the reduction 175 of the pensions of new entrants to the police forces when they reach the age of sixty-five. At this age, the pensioner will be eligible to receive a National Insurance retirement pension and, as explained when the Police Pensions Bill was before the House, both the police pension and the retirement pension are being subsidised—and I may say heavily subsidised—from public funds. It would not be reasonable to expect either the taxpayer or the ratepayer to subsidise the full duplication of both pensions. The other important change, which was foreshadowed in the White Paper, is the replacement by a single scale of the existing two scales of special pensions when a policeman is disabled or killed by an injury or disease received in the execution of duty. This new scale was unanimously recommended to the Home Secretary by a committee of the Police Council on which all the interests concerned were represented, and its introduction will mean the removal of a fruitful source of dispute as to the appropriate classification of particular injuries. In the case of the disabled man, the new scale is almost exactly midway between the old so-called non-accidental and accidental scales. Where the man dies from the injury, the distinction between the two scales of widows' pensions has been removed by bringing up the lower scale to the level of the higher.
Part III deals with awards on death—that is, awards to widows, children and dependants of police officers. Special provision is made for increasing the pensions and allowances of widows and children whose husbands are already dead, and of those whose husbands die before having paid a sufficient number of contributions to entitle them to benefit under the National Insurance Act. These pensions and allowances will be increased in much the same sort of way as pensions of widows of persons insured under the Contributory Pensions Acts are being increased under the National Insurance Act. A similar concession has been extended for the first time to widows of men who retired before 1918. In the future, policemen will be insured under the National Insurance Act and their widows will be able to get whatever benefits they are entitled to under that Act and a small police widow's pension in addition. Thus a future 176 widow who gets a National Insurance pension will receive at least 37s. 6d. a week altogether. Part IV deals with the computation of pensionable service and follows very much the lines of the existing provisions. Part V relates to pension contributions. The Police Council were not unanimous on the question of what the appropriate rate of contribution should be, and for the time being, therefore, until the matter can be considered by the Committee on Police Conditions of Service, the old rate has been reproduced, subject to a small reduction due to the modification of pension benefits on account of National Insurance. The remaining parts of the draft Regulations are not very different from the substance of the existing law.
I do not think I need say much more about the scheme. It is quite true it is lengthy and detailed, but it replaces lengthy and detailed provisions. It has been considered and discussed in principle and in detail by the Police Council for many months, and over a wide field the Council were able to reach agreement. The Council were not able to agree on all the topics which they discussed, but there will be ample opportunity for the Committee under Lord Oaksey to consider these contentious issues against the background of the whole field of conditions of service. Apart from these issues, the draft Regulations set out a satisfactory and comprehensive code for the police service, with safeguards for existing police officers and, in some cases, especially in relation to existing police widows, provide for substantial improvements in conditions. I should add that in these Regulations there are three misprints which I will correct, if I may. On page 37, First Schedule, Part III, paragraph 2, "Regulation 42" should read "Regulation 41" Then on page 38, First Schedule, Part III, paragraph 3, "Regulation 42" should read "Regulation 41" On page 38, First Schedule, Part III, paragraph 5, "paragraph (6) of Regulation 69" should read "paragraph (7) of Regulation 68" Those are mere clerical errors, and it must be understood that in moving the Motion, as I do, I move that the Regulations be approved with those minor amendments. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Special Order, as reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday, the 23rd of June last, be approved.—(The Lord Chancellor.)177
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I rise on behalf of noble Lords who sit on these Benches to support the Motion which has been made by the Lord Chancellor, and I believe that the House would be well advised to approve these Regulations even though, as the noble Viscount said, they incorporate only those recommendations which have been unanimously agreed. As the Lord Chancellor stated, it is essential to have a new code in existence by July 5, to coincide with the coming into force of the National Insurance Act. I understand from what the noble and learned Viscount has said that, where differences of opinion have arisen in drawing up these Regulations, they will, in point of fact, be referred to the Committee which has been set up under the chairmanship of Lord Oaksey, and that at some time in the future the Home Secretary will have to lay further Regulations before your Lordships' House.
There is little in these Regulations which calls for any comment, as the Government have fulfilled all the promises which were made during the passage of the Act. But I should like to ask the Lord Chancellor one question concerning Regulation 15, which enables a gratuity to be given to a policeman's widow in lieu of a pension. I am not wholly clear about the reasons which are likely to be considered sufficient for granting the widow a gratuity in lieu of a pension. It may well be that she has a wish' to purchase property. I do not know whether the Lord Chancellor could enlighten me on the matter, especially as under Regulation 21 the policeman's widow will forfeit her pension if she re-marries. I cannot believe that it is also intended that she should in any way forfeit a portion of her gratuity if she ultimately re-marries. The only further comment I have to make is, that I trust that a new entrant into the police force will have something simpler to digest concerning his pension rights than the very complicated Regulations which are embodied in this Paper. Finally, let me say this: that in the days when I was at the Home Office, keeping a quiet and watchful eye on the then Home Secretary, Mr. Herbert Morrison, we did not make these silly little mistakes. If we ever went into error at all we did it with vigour, as on the occasion when we completely forgot to put the Fire Service Regulation before 178 Parliament at all. It seems that the Home Office have a peculiar knack of omitting to do that which ought to be done. With those few brief observations, I would support the Regulations.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, if I may I will answer now the questions which have been put to me. The question whether a gratuity or a pension should be granted is entirely a matter for the authority to decide in accordance with their discretion. On the one hand, the broad general principle is that there is always a danger that if a lump sum is granted, that sum may be squandered. That leads the authority to lean towards a pension. On the other hand, there may be an instance—as, for example, where a mortgage has to be paid off—in which the recipient can make out a case for payment of a lump sum down rather than a pension. It is entirely a matter for the authority to deal with according to their discretion. As to the noble Earl's question relating to Regulation 21, I would say that if a widow who, has had a lump sum awarded to her marries again, that which she has had she keeps. She is under no obligation to, repay any part of it. I am very sorry for these small error. I justify them on the classical ground: "Is it no: a little one?"
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.