HL Deb 07 July 1964 vol 259 cc931-8

2.56 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Police Pensions (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations, 1964, a draft of which was laid before your Lordships' House on June 18, be approved. The regulations contain amendments to the Police Pensions Regulations, 1962. They apply those regulations to inspectors of constabulary (including assistant inspectors) appointed on or after August 1, 1964, and to policemen engaged on central service —that is, temporary service of the Crown on police duty such as research into matters affecting the efficiency of the police, in the training centres and other common police services. These amendments follow upon the provisions of the Police Act, 1964, relating to inspectors of constabulary and central service officers which will come into operation on August 1. The regulations also contain amendments to improve the present arrangements for commuting and allocating pensions, and to provide lump sum payments to the widow or dependants of a policeman who dies as a result of a murderous attack. These latter amendments arise from discussion in the Police Council for Great Britain to which I shall refer in a moment.

The House may find it convenient if I group together the draft regulations which relate to the particular subjects. Regulations 1 and 13 to 16 relate to the pension arrangements for inspectors of constabulary and central service officers. In particular, Regulation 15 provides that these officers shall be treated for pension purposes as members of a police force, and the effect of Regulation 16 is that the regulations shall apply to them as if the Secretary of State were their police authority. Regulation 4 provides revised arrangements for commuting part of a pension for a lump sum; and Regulations 2, 3 and 6 contain amendments consequential on Regulation 4. The principal changes from the current provisions are that a policeman will no longer be required to satisfy the police authority of his good health if he wishes to commute part of his pension, and the part of his pension which he may commute is increased from a sixth to a quarter.

Regulation 5 sets out the current provisions, incorporating the amendments, as to the allocation of part of a pension. The amendments enable a serving policeman who has already allocated a portion of his pension in favour of a dependant to increase this allocation and, if that dependant dies, to allocate a portion in favour of some other dependant. Regulations 8 and 10, which insert new regulations into the 1962 Regulations, provide for the payment of a lump sum to the widow or dependants of a policeman who dies after August 1, 1964, from an injury received from an attack which is likely to cause death. Regulations 7, 9, 11 and 12 contain consequential amendments.

Before I explain these last provisions in more detail, it may be helpful if I refer briefly to their history and to some of the considerations which have led to their being brought before the House in their present form. The Police Pensions Regulations have for many years provided a special rate of pension for two classes of widow. In cases where the husband dies as a result of an injury received, without his own default, in the execution of his duty, his widow receives a basic pension and National Insurance benefits and, if these together are less than one-third of her husband's average pensionable pay, the difference is made up. In cases where the husband, when I acting in the execution of his duty, is attacked in a manner intrinsically likely to kill and dies as a result of the attack, the widow's pension is made up to a half of her husband's average pensionable salary. Your Lordships' House has always felt—and is aware that the public feel—deep and sincere sympathy with the widow and the dependants of a policeman who has succumbed to a murderous attack while carrying out his duty. It was for this reason that in 1953 a special rate of pension was provided for the widow.

Some three years ago a proposal was put before the Police Council for Great Britain that the regulations should provide for the payment in certain circumstances of a lump sum to widows of policemen who are killed on duty or who, while on duty, receive injuries from which they subsequently die. The discussions have continued over the three years in an endeavour to reach agreement as to the precise circumstances in which the payment should be made—that is, whether the payment should be made to widows of policemen other than those who are murdered—and what the amount of it should be. It is only because it has become apparent, after exhaustive discussion, that there is no prospect of agreement in the Police Council that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has decided to take action himself.

My right honourable friend readily understand the view that has been expressed that other police widows should be provided with a lump sum in addition to a special pension, but he also knows that these difficulties are also faced not only by police widows but by other widows—the widows of other men in various public services who face danger and death in carrying out their duties. Except in the case where a policeman is murdered—and, as I have indicated, the policeman is the one who is expected to confront a dangerous criminal—it is not easy to distinguish the claims of a policeman's widow or dependants from those of other public servants who risk mortal injury through fire, assault, explosion and other hazards which they may meet in pursuing their calling.

It is therefore right to lay before your Lordships' House the present provisions to ensure that the widow or dependants of a policeman killed in these special circumstances should have the benefit of a special award. This is not to say that other widows should be forgotten. Far from it. It has been proposed—and I hope that agreement to the proposal will be reached in the Police Council—that the provisions of the police pensions arrangements should be reviewed in comparison with the pensions arrangements of other services which do provide lump sum payments in addition to a pension to see how far police pensions can be assimilated with them.

The actual provisions themselves are not complex. Regulation 7 preserves the entitlement to a special pension of a widow whose husband dies as the result of an injury on duty. Regulation 8 inserts a new Regulation 12A into the 1962 Regulations entitling a widow of a policeman who dies as the result of being attacked to a special rate pension as at present, and to a gratuity of the amount of twice the maximum annual rate of pay of a male constable. This on present rates would amount to just over £2,000.

Regulation 10 inserts a new Regulation 22A providing for the payment of a gratuity, of the same amount as would have been payable to a widow, to a child of a policeman or policewoman who dies as the result of an attack in the case where a policeman leaves no widow or a policewoman was the child's only surviving parent. To be eligible for a gratuity a child must, at the date of the death of the parent, be under 16 years of age or, if the child is in full-time education, under 19 years of age. These are the same age limits as apply to the payment of a child's allowance. If there is more than one child in the family entitled to a gratuity, the gratuity is to be shared equally between the children. The consequential amendments in Regulations 9, 11 and 12 provide that a gratuity shall not be payable where at present a special pension or child's allowance is not payable, and that the gratuity where payable shall be paid in addition to a special pension or allowance. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Police Pensions (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations, 1964. laid before the House on the 18th of June, be approved.—(Lord Derwent.)

3.6 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends and myself I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, for his careful exposition of this valuable Order, and welcome yet another much-needed improvement in police pensions. This is the fourth or fifth Order relating to police pensions that we have had in this Parliament alone. All of them have resulted in improvements which have been long awaited; all of them have removed anomalies. Therefore, they are extremely welcome, and particularly this Order, with its change which will improve the lot of quite a number of police widows.

In dealing with these regulations, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said that they were not complex. I cannot imagine any noble Lord, having listened to Lord Derwent's quite clear exposition, possibly agreeing with that statement. They are necessarily complex, and one wonders how it is possible, even with the help of the Police Federation, for a widow to understand just what her rights are or to make sure that she gets them. Therefore I would ask the noble Lord to say, first of all, the extent to which these new provisions will be retrospective: and, secondly, the extent to which they will seal off some of the older anomalies.

Furthermore, will he tell the House what steps are to be taken to explain these new regulations so that they can be clear to all potential recipients? The decision of the Home Secretary in this difficult matter is welcome; because somebody had to decide and it was right that the Home Secretary should not defer the matter any longer. But the decision means that yet other anomalies have, of necessity, been created. One would hope that we should accept and implement the principle that where a policeman is incapacitated while doing his duty, or where a policeman dies, whether he is murdered or dies as a result of injury or accident in the course of his duty, his widow and dependants should equally be cared for. It is not generally accepted, as the noble Lord put forward, that policemen should not be properly dealt with because if they are fairly dealt with it will create anomalies in relation to other public servants, such as firemen and other people who risk their lives in the course of their duty who also are not properly dealt with. The basis on which we should consider this matter is that all these public servants and their dependants should be cared for equally on an adequate basis, and that in all cases the regulations should be perfectly clear and not require a great deal of explanation. These regulations, as I have said, bring about welcome and considerable improvements, but I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give some reply to the points I have made, and also some indication as to whether his right honourable friend is considering what is so badly needed in this matter—that is, a further consolidation of all these changes, so that the matter can become much clearer to everyone than it is at present.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his opening remarks about these regulations. The first point he raised was whether they were retrospective. The answer is, No. If a policeman is murdered (which is the kind of case we are talking about) on or after August 1, 1964, his widow will come under these regulations; but should such an event occur before then she will not, because the regulations will be brought into force only on that date.

As regards the various matters which the noble Lord raised about other widows, we are trying to get the pension rights of widows in the various services in line. I entirely agree that there are anomalies at present, but discussions are going on. But this particular regulation to which we are referring, Regulation 8, is brought in because there is no likelihood at present of agreement, and in this particular case police officers are in a different position from any other public servant. It is for that reason that this special lump sum payment is brought in for that particular class of widow. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that there are anomalies, and I think that in all pension matters anomalies are likely to remain. We are trying very hard to get police pensions into line with those of other services, but that means a good deal of further discussion.

3.11 p.m.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether it is possible to make these regulations effective as from the date of passing them? That is, after all, the normal course. Sometimes in legislation we postpone the date of operation, but normally legislation comes into effect on the date when it receives the Royal Assent. Here we are approving these regulations. Why can we not say that as from to-day, as from the date when they receive approval in another place, these regulations will come into operation? There will then be no anomaly between a policeman who is murdered to-morrow and one who is murdered after August 1. Surely that could be done. I do not know whether the regulation itself provides for its becoming effective on August 1, but I certainly feel that some steps should be taken to make it effective as from the date, when we pass it.


My Lords, in relation to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, it seems rather absurd that a policeman must not get himself killed before August 1, if his widow is to have any benefit therefrom. There is one question which I should like to put—and it is not put in any criticism, but is a genuine question. I gather that if a policeman is killed by a criminal while the policeman is acting in the course of his duty the widow gets a gratuity as well as a, pension; but the pension, I gather, is an increased pension because he was killed in those circumstances. It seems to me, with respect, that a policeman, whether killed by a murderer or in the ordinary life of a policeman, leaves a widow who is just as much a widow as anybody else. So any recognition of a widow whose husband has been killed by force should be by way of gratuity, rather than by putting her into a separate class in the pension scheme.


My Lords, I repeat that this regulation deals with this one particular class of widow, and it leaves the most extraordinary anomalies. It is concerned with the widow of a policeman who is killed, or dies as a result of an attack. This particular regulation does not cover the policeman who dies on duty. A policeman might, for instance, have a heart attack while arresting a pickpocket; or he might, without intending to arrest the driver, without taking any account of what the driver was doing, be knocked down by a car. In neither case would his widow receive the gratuity.

We are, of course, dealing here with a date a few weeks hence. Some date must apply and the regulations state August 1. I am speaking without advice here, but I rather think a change would entail withdrawing the regulations and redrafting them. I shall look into the point, but some date has to be fixed, and as August 1 is only a few weeks away, I would think it is as good a date as any other.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend a question before he sits down? He used a curious phrase which I understood to mean that, in the case of a policeman who was killed as the result of an assault which was intrinsically likely to kill, his widow was dealt with differently from the widow of a policeman who died in other circumstances. Does that mean, for instance, that if a policeman, who is hit on the jaw in an affray, falls and breaks his skull and dies, his widow will be dealt with differently from the widow of somebody who is stabbed in an affray, the result of which would almost certainly be his death?


My Lords, I think my noble friend is more or less right. It is very difficult to generalise without having a particular case, but there are two parallel examples. If a policeman was directing traffic and was knocked down owing to the carelessness of a driver, of course he would not be considered to be murdered. If, on the other hand, a car was driven directly at him with the intention of knocking him down, that would be a form of attack which would be likely to cause his death, and if he died as the result his widow would benefit from the regulation.


My Lords, I am sorry to pursue the point, but does my noble friend think that in administering this regulation it is possible to deal equitably with the two categories of cases that are likely to come before the Minister for decision?


My Lords, there has been no difficulty up till now, and I do not see why there should be any difficulty in future.

On Question, Motion agreed to.