§ 11.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I beg to move,That the Police Pensions (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations, 1964, a draft of which was laid before this House on 16th July, be approved.These new Regulations do just what the House asked me to do when we last debated this matter, and which I then promised to do. Hon. Members on both sides of the House were then closely interested in the new provision which I proposed for the payment of a lump sum to the widow or the dependants of a policeman who dies from injury received from a murderous attack in the course of his duty.
Both sides of the House at that time urged me to go further and widen this provision so as to bring in the widows or dependants of police officers killed while trying to make an arrest, even although they were not actually the victims of an attack. I accepted that view of the House, and promised to bring forward an amending Regulation on those lines before the Recess and in the lifetime of this Parliament. I explained that I could do this only if I received the co-operation and help of all concerned, because I cannot lay any new regulation before Parliament without first bringing it before a meeting of the Police Council and consulting that body.
I am glad to say that I have received that co-operation in full. Discussions with representatives of the Police Federation and consultation with the Police Council for England and Wales and the Police Council for Scotland have taken place in a friendly and constructive manner. The draft Regulations before us tonight are the agreed result of those discussions.
Regulation 1 not only provides that where a policeman dies as the result of an attack his widow will be entitled to a gratuity equal to twice the annual maximum pay of a constable, in addition to the special rate of pension which the 1177 principal Regulations already provide, but also ensures, as the House desired, that this will extend to the police widow whose husband dies as a result of an injury received in the course of trying to effect an arrest or to prevent an escape or rescue from custody. The dependent children will be provided for in both cases in the same way, if the policeman does not leave a widow.
As I have said, these draft Regulations exactly give effect to the wishes expressed by both sides of the House in our debate the other day, and they have been approved since then by both Police Councils. I only add that I remain of the view which I expressed before that what we now need is a comprehensive review of the entire police pensions system, to see whether some of the anomalies, differences and difficulties which individually come forward for discussion in the Police Council from time to time cannot by agreement be ironed out. In the forthcoming consultations on this proposal of mine, I hope that I may again have the co-operation of all concerned, as I have generously had it in the preparation of these amending Regulations that are before us tonight.
§ 11.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I am sure that the whole House will appreciate that the Home Secretary has been able, before the end of the Session, to lay before the House these amended Regulations and that by doing so he has been able to implement the promise which he gave to the House when we debated the earlier Regulations on 9th July. As the Home Secretary has said, he has taken this course as a result of representations that were made to him during that debate, from both sides of the House. Both sides of the House can claim satisfaction at the fact that on this occasion pressure from the House of Commons has induced the Home Secretary to change his mind and do something which, at the outset, he told us that for various reasons he was quite unable to do.
It is also important to record that the speeches that were made on that occasion when we discussed the Police Regulations were a valuable indication of the very high esteem in which the 1178 police are held by this House and were an indication of the anxiety of the House of Commons to show its desire to give the fullest possible moral support to the police throughout the country in the arduous and difficult responsibilities which they have to undertake.
I do not want to pursue unduly the fact that the Home Secretary, on 9th July, started by giving us a number of reasons why it was impossible to do what he has now agreed to do, but there is one point to which attention should be drawn. One of the reasons which the Home Secretary then advanced for not being able to do what he is now doing was that it would produce anomalies in other branches of the public service. He said, for example, that if Regulations of this kind were made, giving this benefit to the widows of policemen who lost their lives in the execution of their duty, they would be treated more favourably by the authorities who employ them than, for example, the widow of a fireman who is killed in a fire. It is natural and to be expected that now that the Home Secretary has made this very welcome decision in the case of widows of policemen who lose their lives in the execution of their duty, similar provisions should be sought in respect of the widows of firemen who may also happen to lose their lives in the execution of a public duty. Therefore, I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to tell us that in the review that he is contemplating—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is about to suggest that we should now discuss some other widows' provisions outside the police force. I dislike having to interrupt him, but I am bound to indicate—it is my duty to do so—that it would be out of order on the Order.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am much obliged, Mr. Speaker. I was about to conclude by saying that I was not quite sure what the Home Secretary had in mind but I hoped that the further comprehensive review which he is contemplating with regard to pension regulations will be sufficiently comprehensive to embrace the widows not only of police but of those other officers in the public service to whom he is responsible.
§ 11.36 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) has drawn attention to one of the problems which confronted my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in presenting the Regulations to us previously. The Home Secretary pointed to the difficulties which might arise if he gave way in this case. I feel that it would be right for me to express my personal appreciation, and, I am sure, the appreciation of the House, of the very courteous and gracious way in which the Home Secretary withdrew the Regulations and agreed to re-present them in the form in which he has done tonight. I am sure that we and all police forces are very grateful to him.
§ 11.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
I very sincerely thank my right hon. Friend for honouring his word and bringing these Regulations forward, and doing it so expeditiously. I am sure that it is a job well done, and I am sure that the House and the police will be grateful to him.
I think that the unanimous feeling expressed by the House this month underlines the respect that we have for our great police force and shows that we want it to know that we are entirely with it in all that it does and that so far as money can compensate for the loss of a husband—in some cases it may concern what happens to a lady—we are prepared to go to the very limit. I hope that the police will interpret it—I am sure they will—as an indication of our respect for them.
I support my right hon. Friend in the review to which he referred I am sure that his task would be easier, and so would that of a police constable, if such a review could take up the slack and deal with any potential anomalies which might occur from time to time. I hope that time may be found simultaneously with that review, if not in that review, to deal with comparable cases and matters affecting those in other public services who will no doubt feel that they should be treated similarly. I hope that my right hon. Friend will have a comprehensive viewpoint over this. I am not worried about precedent; I am worried that we should express our sympathy in a manner fitting for the great nation to which we belong.
1180 I have studied the Regulation in question and am sure that it will do all we wanted and all that my right hon. Friend intends. But I have looked to the future with the mind of a lawyer, and I would ask my right hon. Friend whether anywhere in the new Regulation there appears a mandate to pay the special pension for one section of those who are included under the new Order. Regulation No. 12A reiterates the provision in the 1962 Regulations. There is no harm in repeating it. That is common to our legislation. It says that any woman whose husband was mortally injured as a result of an attack and died after 5th July, 1948, is thereby entitled to the superior pension or the special pension. That was in the original Regulations, the mandate being in the words:… a widow to whom this Regulation applies shall be entitled …I can find no comparable words in the Regulation before us. That is my trouble. It says that the Regulation will apply as regards those attacked and dying after 5th July, 1948, and those whose death is the result of an injury received during the execution of their duty. That is all quite clear. But the only possible mandate before us tonight is in 12A (3) which says:… a widow to whom this Regulation applies …That I believe covers both types of widow.
The widow whose husband dies on or after 1st August 1964, is to be entitled to a gratuity as provided, and that is all right. It will come into force after 1st August. But there are also the words:… in addition to a widow's special pension.They will also apply to the new types of person to be brought in now—those whose husbands are killed in the execution of their duty but not necessarily by attack. This Order specifically rules out Regulation No. 8 of the Police Pensions (Amendment) No. 2 Order passed earlier this month. It seems to be at pains to state those to whom it applies. It categorically includes both types of widow, but nowhere does it say that those who are to be covered after 1st August shall be entitled also to an extra pension, apart from some vague qualifying phrase at the end of paragraph (3), which refers 1181 back to the 1962 Regulations, adding the new departure of entitlement to a special pension of those whose husbands are killed not by attack but in the execution of their duty.
I am not sure that in future some shadow of doubt will not be cast on all this. I do not want to stop the Order going through tonight but I hope that, in the review to be undertaken, my right hon. Friend will take the opportunity of wording this a little more clearly and happily in order to make certain that it is understood that we are adding another section to those who will be entitled to the special pension and two more sections to those who will get the gratuity. I hope that I have not confused the issue but if so it has been done with the very best intentions. I thank my right hon Friend again for what he has done and I am sure that he will receive the gratitude of the force.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I will acknowledge that, as far as I understand it, the Regulation which the Home Secretary has introduced fulfils the undertaking which he gave to the House, and I am grateful to him for it. Having had a long experience of trying to understand these Regulations, I beg the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) not to try. My technique now is to ask the draftsmen or the Home Office officials, "Are you satisfied that this does what the agreement provided?", and, if they say, "Yes", I let it go in the full knowledge that if there is a technical fault in the Regulations, they will introduce another, because they are honourable men and will not go back on their word.
This, of course, is a discretionary pension. It is not automatic, as in the case of the man who is killed as the result of an attack upon his person. It is discretionary in the sense that the local police authority decides whether his death is the equivalent of an attack upon his person in somewhat similar circumstances. There never was any doubt that the Home Secretary would get the co-operation of the other bodies making up the Police Council, because, as the Home Secretary well knows, for reasons which I will not go into, it was one element which served on the Police Council which was holding us up, and, 1182 once the House of Commons had got hold of that element, the rest were willing and anxious to agree.
I am a little worried about the comprehensive review which the Home Secretary has mentioned. I do not know what the need for it is. I hope that the House will not be led astray by this. I do not know whether it is a Machiavellian device on the part of the Home Secretary to interfere with the structure of the police pension system, but I cannot imagine what is the need otherwise.
The basic structure of the system is perfectly adequate. It is fair and reasonable and, as far as I know, has aroused no dissent on either side. By "basic structure" I mean the number of years a policeman has to serve, the rate at which he qualifies for pension and the conditions in which he qualifies. As someone who has studied these matters for some years, I see absolutely no reason for a comprehensive review.
Grave suspicion is engendered by the Home Office and the Home Secretary, who has mentioned this two or three times, when this suggestion is made, because it is believed that the purpose of a comprehensive review is to tamper with the basic structure. If the Home Secretary can remove that apprehension tonight, the suggestion might be received with much better grace by other elements on the Police Council.
So far as I know, only what might be called fringe benefits are causing difficulty, not the basic structure itself. There are two or three little irritations in the matter of widows' pensions, who shall secure them and when and what shall be done about two types of fringe groups, which are not at all related to the basic structure of the system itself. If that is what the Home Secretary has in mind and if he says that he would like a comprehensive review of the fringe benefits, then there might be some progress.
But if he has in mind some idea of looking at the whose structure of the police pension system, he knows, almost without my telling him, that this will be met with very great resistance. It is up to him to tell us why he wants this review and to say what is in the back of his mind before we start on a discussion of this sort. My studies convince me that there is a need only for adjustments in certain minor fringe proposals.
1183 These adjustments hardly need a comprehensive review. They have been brought up time after time and have been dredged through the fine net of the Police Council so often that there is now practically nothing left to go through.
It is a small group of concessions which the Home Office is unwilling to make, and I would not have troubled the House with it, as I would not have troubled the House with this illustration, except that it was brought here by the Home Office. If it is those that he wants to review, let us do so, but if it is anything more I say to the right hon. Gentleman that there is a great deal of suspicion now about what this comprehensive review means. Certainly it cannot bring in any other service. The Police Council deals with the police and not with any other body, and no comprehensive review of the pensions of other people can take place on the Police Council.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I would be out of order if I were to pursue that. I say that that would not be a proper thing for the Police Council to do, whatever other body it may be proper for it to be based on. If the Government wished to have a comprehensive review of all public service pensions, they would do it in some other way. It would not be the Home Secretary in charge of that, it would be the Treasury, so I take it that that is not in his mind.
But as this question has been raised, it will be helpful, especially as there is a Police Council meeting on Wednesday, at which the subject will come up again, if the right hon. Gentleman could assist those attending the Council by telling us whether he wants a comprehensive review of the whole structure, or whether he is thinking merely of the fringe benefits. If he is thinking of the former, he will not get it with the consent of all those concerned. If he is thinking of the latter, he will get it and there will be no difficulty in carrying out negotiations on the limited basis of negotiating in respect of the fringe benefits on which there are minor differences, but the major structure should remain unchanged.
§ 11.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Brooke
I had hoped to be able to express gratitude for all the speeches that had been made this evening, but I cannot do so in relation to some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I am seeking agreement, and it occurred to me from the tone of his speech that he was seeking disagreement even before he had heard any proposals.
I should like to thank the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) and my two hon. Friends, not so much for what they said about me, though I am grateful for that, as for what they said about the esteem in which the police are held by the House. It cannot be too often put on record, because there are many critics and cynical attackers of the police elsewhere, that this House believes in the police and is prepared to give them firm and unwavering support.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) asked a rather complicated question, of which he had not given me notice, but I can assure him that all those who have studied this—the draftsmen, the Police Federation, and the Police Council—have all been satisfied with this wording. It is, as he perceived, in the new regulation which we are seeking to make. Regulation 12A (3), which says:A widow to whom this Regulation applies whose husband dies on or after 1st August 1964 shall be entitled to a gratuity, as hereinafter provided, in addition to a widow's special pension.As I think he perceived, one can find what a widow's special pension is by referring back to Regulation 12 of the 1962 Regulations.
It would not be in order for me to say anything about pensions in other services outside the police, but, as regards the police pensions, I am bound to say to the hon. Member for Cardiff. South-East that if he believes that there is something sinister, or Machiavellian, in my proposals, it would greatly help if he would eliminate anything of that sort from his mind, and seek to eliminate it from the minds of those whom he serves.
My proposal is for a revision that would be completely without commitment on either side. It would be open 1185 to all suggestions, whether from the Staff Side or the Official Side. I can give the hon. Member one example, which, I hope, he will pass on. It might well seem desirable to provide for lump sums on retirement, which are, to the best of my knowledge, almost common form in other pension schemes nowadays, but are not included in the police pension scheme. That is the sort of thing that should be looked at. I do not know whether the hon. Member calls that a fringe benefit or part of the basic structure. But this is not a firm proposal which I am putting up; it is one of the possibilities which the kind of review that I am advocating might bring up.
During the course of that review there are a number of detailed anomalies that might be ironed out. It could not lead to a revision of the basic structure of the police pension scheme without the agreement of the Council as a whole. There is no danger of the Official Side being able to slip through something of a Machiavellian nature and demand that the Staff Side should accept it.
Surely, for the kind of reasons that I have given tonight, it would be desirable that we should look at all these matters without commitment, to see whether we can jointly improve the system. I will not pursue the matter further now. I hope that I have given the hon. Member a clear answer, which will be helpful when the Police Council meets. Mean-which, I am grateful to the House for the way in which it has accepted this change which is made in the amending Regulations.
§ 11.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Callaghan
If I may speak again, with the leave of the House, I would not like the House to think that I am unreasonable about this, because I am not. The plain truth is—and it is fair to the Police Council to say this to the House—that the Home Secretary has said nothing tonight that has not been 1186 said before. All this has been gone through. The proposal for a lump sum payment has been examined for two years at least. I know of nothing that the Official Side is not entitled to raise, if it wishes to do so. It is entitled to put items on the agenda. The Staff Side puts its items on the agenda, and both sides discuss them.
I say to the Home Secretary, with the utmost friendliness, that he is so clumsy about this. If he did not have in mind the idea of a review of the basic structure he should have made this clear at the beginning. It has been talked about for three or four months. On behalf of the Staff Side, I gave an indication of what was in its mind, concerning the attitude of mind of the Home Office in respect of police pensions. Its suspicions were not fostered by me, but they were represented by me.
The right hon. Gentleman has gone some way to remove those suspicions tonight. I shall convey to the Council what he said. There are certain fringe benefits which might be looked at again. I will convey that point to the Council and hope that it will consider the matter in that light. I escaped the thanks of the right hon. Gentleman for my first speech, and I must bear it with such fortitude as I can muster.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Police Pensions (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 1964. a draft of which was laid before this House on 16th July, be approved.