§ 3.16 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Police Pensions Regulations, 1962, be approved. Your Lordships may recall that when the Police Pensions (Amendment) Regulations, 1961, were passing through this House there was criticism by the Special Orders Committee of the complexity of the police pensions regulations. The Government spokesman at that time, however, could only advise that the consolidation of the existing Regulations—which was the only way in which the complex Regulations could be made more intelligible—was not possible without legislation. This was due to the way in which the Police Pensions Act of 1948 had been drafted.
The Government, accordingly, decided to introduce a simple Bill designed to give the necessary powers to consolidate the existing sets of Regulations into a single instrument. The purpose of that resulting Act, the Police Pensions Act, 1961, was solely to enable consolidation to take place; it gave no power to affect the position of existing pensioners. This, then, is the general position as regards the consolidated Regulations for which seek your Lordships' approval this afternoon. They consolidate the existing codes, and there is no need for any 787 serving member of a police force or for any pensioners (and I include widows and dependants in that term), to fear that their rights will in any way be affected.
I should perhaps mention that the new consolidated Regulations are unique in one respect. Hitherto there have been two sets of Regulations, one for England and the other for Scotland. The two sets were identical except on minor points. It seemed to all concerned with the police pension code—the local authority and police associations in the two countries as well as the central Departments—that there should be a single code applying to England, Wales and Scotland as a whole, and this further consolidation is embodied in the code which is before your Lordships' House now.
The main purpose of the draft consolidated Regulations is, as I have said, merely to restate existing entitlements; but a number of minor amendments have also been made to the Regulations, mainly for the purpose of clarification or to deal with minor questions relating to the National Insurance schemes, including the graduated scheme. In addition we have made several amendments of rather more substance. We have provided that, as from the coming into force of the Regulations, an officer to whom the Overseas Service Act, 1958, applies will be able to count his service under that Act as pensionable service. Hitherto officers have been sent abroad as part of police units under the Police (Overseas Service) Act, 1945; but special and rather complicated arrangements had to be made if an individual officer had to be sent abroad. But it will now be possible, under the Act of 1958, for an officer to reckon his service overseas as pensionable service. I have no hesitation in commending this change to your Lordships. The opportunity has also been taken to provide, in draft Regulation 53, a procedure for appeal tribunals set up to hear appeals by overseas policemen aggrieved by a refusal to grant, or by the amount of, a pension.
There are only two other changes of any real substance to which I should like very briefly to draw attention. Both have been introduced as a result of agreed recommendations made by the Police Council for Great Britain. The 788 first is that provision has been made, in Regulation 80, to secure from forfeiture, otherwise than for one of the serious offences for which a pension actually in payment must be forfeited, the pension rights of regular policemen who decide to stay on in the service after having completed 25 years' service. This followed a review set on foot by a recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Police in their Interim Report.
The second change, which has been made on the agreed recommendation of the Police Council for Great Britain, is that consent to transfer will no longer be required except in the case of chief officers of police and probationer constables transferring from one home police force to another, and officers transferring overseas. At present, such consents are necessary if pension rights are automatically to be preserved. It is, I think, generally agreed that transfers between police forces should be encouraged in the interests of the efficiency of the service as a whole, and this amendment will make a contribution to that end.
My Lords, I should, perhaps, in conclusion, raise one small red flag of warning. I am afraid that it is too much to hope that this consolidated code will remain unamended. As changes in the pension code are agreed, it will, I fear, still be necessary for us to seek your Lordships' approval from time to time for fresh amending Regulations. But now that the powers of the Police Pensions Act, 1961, are available, it will be possible for us at the appropriate time to repeat the process of consolidation, and your Lordships can be assured that, while the police pension code will never, perhaps, be easily comprehensible, it will never be as complex as it has been in recent years.
I am sorry to add that, since a last-minute typographical error was discovered in the 6th Schedule of the draft originally laid, it was necessary to put this right, and the corrected draft is, of course, the one now before your Lordships' House. I regret that this error was made, but I can commend the present draft to the House with confidence. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Police Pensions Regulations 1962, be approved.—(Earl Jellicoe.)789
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, we are obliged for the clarity of the statement which the noble Earl has made, and we understand the necessity for a consolidation of the Regulations. I observe that there are, nevertheless, quite a number of changes, and that in two or three cases the noble Earl said, "in agreement with the Police Council", which I take it includes the agreement, in that Council, of the union representing the police. But may I take it that there is no viewpoint covered by these consolidated Regulations which has not been fully agreed with the Police Union?
My Lords, I think I can assure the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition that in all the places where changes have been made that has been done with the unanimous approval of the Police Councils for England and Wales and Scotland, on which, of course, all the police and local authority associations concerned are represented.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, it is good that this consolidation should take place. I understand that some further consolidations may have to be made later, but it is good that they should be brought up from time to time. I would merely express the hope that the consolidated instrument is not, in the aggregate, more lengthy than the separate instruments that may have been made before, as once happened in regard to Fireguards Orders. As the noble Earl has said, it is mainly consolidation, with some minor amendments, plus the more substantial amendments which he mentioned. There is one of those amendments on which I should like information. He said that the situation concerning police officers serving abroad in the interests of the country would be put right and that such service would be eligible for pension. May we take it that that will be not merely for the future but will be retrospective as to past police service abroad at the request of the Government?
My Lords, it is my understanding that as from the coming 790 into force of these Regulations the new provision will apply to any officer to whom the Overseas Service Act, 1958, applies. I am not certain Whether that clearly meets the point which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has put to me, but that is my understanding of the legal position.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am much obliged. If the House will forgive me for pursuing the point, while it may be all right, like the noble Earl I am uncertain about it. I am sure that there were police officers who went to Cyprus, and I think some who went to Malaya, which would have been, if my memory is right, before 1958. They did pretty dangerous service of very great value to the country, and to Malaya and Cyprus. It would be a very grave thing if they did not come within the meaning of this provision; and, if there is real doubt about it, I would suggest to the noble Earl that we might postpone consideration of these Regulations. If, on the other hand, he can assure me there is no doubt, then we will let them go. But I think there ought to be no doubt, certainly about those two cases, that they are within the meaning of this instrument.
My Lords, I am naturally in the hands of the House at this stage. I should not wish to mislead the House on this matter—and I entirely agree with the noble Lord that this is an important matter. Because I have not immediately to hand the precise information about which he has asked me, I should prefer, if may, to fall in with his wish and to check on this point before I ask your Lordships to give final approval to these draft Regulations.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am very much obliged to the noble Earl. If it is in order and desirable, I will move that consideration of the Regulations be postponed.
§ Moved, That consideration of the Regulations be postponed.—(Lord Morrison of Lambeth.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.