§ 4.13 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:
"When pay policy came into force in July 1975, the general rule was that all subsequent settlements were subject to the limits laid down, but police pay was increased by an average 30 per cent. from 1st September 1975, under an agreement reached in June 1975 and specially protected by the transitional arrangements provided for in the first round of the pay policy. That agreement increased the weekly pay of the federated ranks by amounts ranging upwards from £10 a week; and under the White Paper the agreement had to 905 be regarded as a first round settlement, displacing the £6 a week which was all that would have otherwise been payable.
"At a meeting of the Police Council last July, the Official Side offered increases for the federated ranks to come into effect from 1st September 1976 in strict accordance with the guidelines for the second round of the pay policy: increases of 5 per cent., with a minimum of £2.50 and a maximum of £4 a week. The Staff Side rejected the offer. The Police Federation asked the Official Side to join in making representations to the Government for the payment of increases of £6 a week, on the ground that the previous year's agreement had been a commitment from before the introduction of the first round of the policy. The Official Side did not feel able to associate themselves with representations for what they regarded as a breach of the pay policy. The Police Federations for England and Wales and for Northern Ireland, though not the Scottish Federation, thereupon withdrew from the Police Council.
"Informal discussions have since continued with the Federations both on the question of pay and on the question of negotiating machinery; and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, with my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland and me, had a meeting with representatives of the Federation on 7th March last.
"On the question of pay, the Government, with the agreement of the Official Side of the Police Council, have not departed from the principle that there can be no breach of the second round of the pay policy; but we have discussed possible commitments for future improvements in fringe benefits, subject to pay policy. An offer which, as my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State told the House on Monday, represented the limit to which we could go was put to the Federation on 25th April. The Federation for England and Wales informed me on 9th May that they regarded the offer as wholly inadequate, adhering to their position that the federated ranks had been denied an increase under the first round of the policy.
"Thus discussions with the Federation have regrettably reached an impasse.
906 "In the second round there was no room for flexibility for any organisation and this acceptance of the offer made on 25th April would leave outstanding many of the problems to which the Federation's representatives have drawn attention in recent discussions. They argue that police pay has fallen significantly behind the relationship to outside pay levels recommended by the Royal Commission in 1960; and they consider that we should be taking account of the way in which the pressures on the police have increased since that time: for example, as a result of the increase in crime and especially in crimes of violence. I cannot commit myself at this stage to what it will or will not be possible to do for the police in the next round of pay policy, the guidelines for which have still to be decided, but my hope is that the guidelines will offer scope for greater flexibility, and I am anxious that we should not be prevented from considering what may be possible in future by an indefinite continuation of the present impasse.
"I am also very conscious of the problems of members of the Police Service whose pay has not been in. creased since September 1975. I am reluctant to contemplate their having to wait for a further period of weeks or even months before receiving increases due to them since 1st September 1976.
"I therefore propose as soon as possible to make and lay regulations under Section 33 of the Police Act 1964 to increase the pay of the federated ranks of the police service in England and Wales by 5 per cent. with a maximum of £4 a week, with effect from 1st September 1976. My right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland propose to make similar regulations for the police service in Scotland and Northern Ireland. All the bodies represented on Committee C of the Police Council will be furnished with drafts of these regulations before they are made.
"I also propose to proceed with the establishment of an inquiry to review the negotiating machinery for police pay; I have already circulated to all the bodies concerned, including the Federations, draft terms of reference 907 for this inquiry, and I hope that we may be able to make very early progress with this. The Federations have also proposed that there should be a review in the rather longer term, of their role, functions and constitution; I have told them that I am in principle prepared to set up such a review.
"The steps I have announced this afternoon are in the best interests of the police service and of the country, and will make it possible to bring to an end the present unhappy and unsatisfactory state of relations between the Police Federations and the bodies represented on the Official Side of the Police Council, so that we can all turn our attention to the more constructive question of what to do for the future in the next round which for the police begins in September 1977."
§ My Lords, that is the end of the Statement.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Lord HAILSHAM of SAINT MARYLEBONE
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord for repeating this lengthy Statement which I, personally, am grateful to him for making available to me a little before delivery. I am very anxious myself, and I know that my friends are anxious, not to add to the difficulties of the Home Secretary in this rather delicate operation and, therefore, I do not want to recriminate in any way. The noble Lord knows that at the outset of the pay policy, while not being against one in detail, I found myself very strongly critical of the particular form which it took because of the very high head of steam which arises after the end of the first and second phases, an experience which we had when we were in Government and which the Government are just beginning to undergo.
I am glad that the Home Secretary has decided to make use of Section 33 of the Act of 1964 to make a payment, although he has not been able to agree one. I do not normally welcome inquiries, but suppose the first inquiry, which he has decided to set up, and the second one, which he is willing in principle to set up, are possible ways to ameliorate the present difficulties. If they do proceed to consider the matter, I hope that the pay inquiry 908 will pay due attention to the argument of the Federations that police pay has fallen significantly behind the relationship to outside levels recommended by the Royal Commission in 1960, and I can only hope that the expression of confidence that this will bring to an end the present unhappy situation contained in the last paragraph of the Statement proves to be justified.
I can only wish the Home Secretary good fortune in that endeavour. So far as those of us on this side of the House are concerned, we should find great difficulty in accepting any change in the position of the Federations which would involve a licence to take any form of industrial action. I hope that the Home Secretary will do nothing to make that more easy.
§ Lord WIGODER
My Lords, we on these Benches welcome this Statement. We support the proposal to lay the regulations which are referred to in it, and also to establish the inquiries that are mentioned. If I may say so, I doubt whether clarity was the main objective of whoever drafted this Statement, and it might be of assistance if the noble Lord the Minister would state in the clearest possible terms, without any qualification, that all the proposals in this Statement are entirely four-square within the terms of existing pay policy.
We believe that to be absolutely essential, however justified the grievances of the police may be. It is difficult not to feel that they have a very strong and highly persuasive case. The creation of special cases at this time would be bound to cause serious harm to the economy. The only other observation that I would make, if I may—and I am sure that from the restrained tone of his comments the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, will agree—is that it would be a very sad day if the issue of police pay were to become a Party political issue between Government and Opposition.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, I am grateful for what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, have said. I echo the last words of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder: nothing could be more injurious to the 909 public interest than if this became a matter of dispute between the Parties. The noble and learned Lord put a number of questions to me, one dealing with pay policy generally which obviously goes—as he would recognise—outside the Statement which I have made this afternoon.
The two inquiries, which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary made it clear he would be prepared to set up, are important. The first is an inquiry into the question of the negotiating machinery, the relationship between central Government, local authorities and so on. There is substantial anxiety so far as the Federations are concerned about the present machinery. This being so, in order to go into the matter more carefully, some form of inquiry should take place.
Secondly, there is the question of the constitution of the Federations themselves. This is a matter of great importance. The noble and learned Lord raised one question, and that is the right to strike. This would raise grave questions indeed; the noble and learned Lord is quite right. Again, there are many in the Police Service who are as apprehensive about this as is the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone. It has been put to us that it would be highly desirable to have some form of inquiry into the constitution of the Federations, going into many questions other than the right to strike. My right honourable friend is anxious to proceed in this direction, though he recognises that it is a rather longer-term matter than the inquiry into the negotiating machinery.
The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, paying tribute to the clarity of the Statement—which I appreciate very much—asked me to answer the specific question as to whether the Statement that I have made is entirely consistent with Phase 2 of the pay policy. The answer to that is, "Yes". The Home Secretary has taken the view throughout that it would be wholly inappropriate—indeed, in my view, wholly irresponsible—to make a settlement outside the terms of the second phase of incomes policy and exactly for the reason which the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, pointed out. Special cases have been the death of many incomes policies of several Governments; and in the situation with which this country is confronted at the moment it would be wrong to make a 910 settlement outside the terms of the second phase of the incomes policy. That is why the Home Secretary has taken the view on this matter today as he has throughout.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Lord TAYLOR of GRYFE
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I have found difficulty in following the Statement and perhaps the Minister could give us some enlightenment. First of all, I understand that an offer was made to the Police Federations and rejected by the English Police Federation. Would he tell us how far the present offer goes beyond the offer that was originally rejected? Secondly, in view of the importance of this issue constitutionally, and also for the individuals concerned, would he urge that any inquiry which is set up would operate within a reasonable timetable so that care will be taken of some of the uncertainties and difficulties which apply to this case?
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, it is possible that some of the difficulties which have emerged may be able to be taken into account during the discussion of the third phase of the income policy. That clearly depends on the character of the third phase of the income policy. My noble friend raises the question as to whether the Statement that I have made today is consistent with the earlier offer which was made. It was made clear earlier, when these matters were discussed at the Police Council, that any offer that was made had to be consistent with the second phase of the incomes policy and, as I have indicated, it is so consistent.