I beg to move,
That the Draft Police Pensions Regulations, 1949, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th May, be approved.
The purpose of these regulations, as the House will be aware, is to implement the recommendations made in Part I of the Report of the Committee on police conditions of service, Command Paper 7674, commonly known as the Oaksey Committee's Report, in so far as those recommendations relate to police pensions. To put this in its correct perspective, I may mention that this part of the Report contains recommendations for improved scales, of pay, and for alterations in the scale of allowances, in addition to the recommendations relating to pensions, and that there is a second part of the Committee's Report which is still to come.
My right hon. Friend has already announced that the Government accept the recommendations in the Report as a whole, and the recommendations have already been discussed in the Police Council. Representatives of all ranks there appreciated the difficulties which might arise if one tried to pick and choose in detail among these various recommendations, and they saw some merit in the Government's proposal that effect should be given to the Report as a whole.
It was almost inevitable that everyone did not get what he wanted in this matter, but even those who disagreed with some of the recommendations would agree that the Report is a very careful, comprehensive, and finely balanced piece of work. My right hon. Friend has already paid tribute to the work of the Committee, and I am sure that all hon. Members here who have read the Report will wish to join with me in repeating that tribute to them. It is my right hon. Friend's object to bring the new rates of pension into operation from the 1st July, if they are approved by the House, and from the same date the pay proposals, which will be made in other regulations under the 1919 Act, will also come into operation.
The document before us is rather long because it not only incorporates the changes recommended by the Oaksey Committee, but also revokes and substantially re-enacts in a single revised code the two sets of pension regulations which the House approved last year. The 1948 regulations, subject to certain minor modifications which will be found in the Appendix to these regulations, will continue to apply after 1st July only to pensions granted in respect of retirement between 5th July, 1948, and 1st July, 1949, and to deaths which occur before 1st July, 1949. Subject to that exception, the draft regulations will entirely supersede and incorporate the regulations of 1948.
The effect of each draft regulation in implementing the recommendations is set forth fairly comprehensively in the Appendix to the Statement—Command Paper 7707—issued at the same time as the regulations. Therefore I hope hon. Members will not complain if I do not go in detail through each of the regulations as it applies to the recommendations of the Committee.
I should like first to dispose of a minor point arising out of a statement in paragraph 14 that these regulations include certain minor changes other than those recommended by the Oaksey Committee. These are all technicalities of a minor nature, and I have no reason to think any of them is controversial. All I propose to say about them at the moment is that a number of them simply remove obscurities of wording or make good certain omissions in the 1948 Code, and in the few cases where a substantial change is made—as in paragraphs 7, 78, and 79—the change is advantageous to the rather limited classes of persons to whom it applies.
If I may turn to the main recommendations, the first one as summarised in the Report, is to the effect that no major alteration should be made at present in the structure of the pensions scheme. The Committee call attention, referring to the existing pensions scheme, to the high proportion of the total remuneration of the police which comes from pensions, and to the relatively low proportion contributed towards that by the men themselves. They point out that whereas the cost of pay is between £25 million and £26 million annually, the annual cost of pensions is as high as £10 million, and as regards the contributions which go to make that up, four-fifths comes from public funds and only one-fifth from the contributions of the men themselves. While the Committee suggest that a general review may be necessary at some future date, particularly taking into account the National Insurance Scheme, they do not think it right to make major changes now. Therefore, the improvements in the amount of the pensions which will become payable under these new regulations is due not to any major change of structure but to the improved scales of pay, recommended by the Committee, on which these new pensions will be calculated.
I should like to come straight to the proposal which of all the pensions proposals has aroused the most discussion, namely, that the pension should be calculated on the basis of the average pensionable pay over the last three years of an officer's service. This is already the case where promotion has occurred within the last three years, but not otherwise. This has been discussed by the Police Council and some objections have been raised to it. Averaging is the normal system in schemes in most other public services. After the first three years after these new rates have come into force averaging is likely to make small difference to the pensions payable to members of the police forces, and probably this small difference will only affect a very small number of the people retiring. If hon. Members look at the scales of pay set out in the Appendix to Cmd. 7707, they will see that that statement of mine is correct.
The objection is to the introduction of averaging at the same time as the introduction of the new rates of pay. The objection is two-fold: firstly, it is said that this will have an adverse effect on promotion because it is liable to lead to senior officers who might otherwise have retired continuing until their average pay reaches the same figure as their actual pay; and secondly, that it is unfair to men who will already have done a full period to have to continue their service for a further period in order to reach the maximum.
The Committee considered all the arguments on this matter very carefully, in paragraphs 124 to 128 of the Report, and I do not think I shall attempt to repeat them here. I shall only summarise two of the arguments. The first is that the Committee quite strongly says that it would not be right that men should enjoy substantial improvement of pensions except in return for at least some service at the new rates. They have stated that as a principle. The second argument is the purely practical one that if the regulations were not introduced it might lead to the immediate retirement on the introduction of the new scales of pay and pension of very large numbers of senior officers who already have more than 25 years service.
There are, according to the Committee, 7,000 officers who would be in a position to retire, 1,000 of these being in the Metropolitan Police. If they were to retire rapidly after the initial day, that would seriously embarrass an already undermanned service. I think that this latter argument goes at any rate some way towards meeting, as regards police manpower, the possible effect of the other argument that this will discourage the younger men by slowing up promotion. There may be, perhaps, an immediate slow-up of promotion through all senior officers remaining in the force; but that can only be a temporary effect, because there is bound to be compensating acceleration of retirement as the three years' period comes to an end.
The Committee says, with regard to averaging, that this is an essential concomitant of the substantiation of pay that they propose. To that recommendation His Majesty's Government feel that they must adhere. There are only two other points which I wish to make. Particular care has been taken to avoid any possibility that the safeguard that was put into Section 2 (b) of the Police Pensions Act of 1948 should not be infringed. There is therefore a provision in Regulation 87 for election by a serving member of the force if he prefers to have his pension based on his actual pay on the existing rates. He can do so, but, of course, in that event, he does not receive the new rates of pay.
There is another point which I would like to emphasise because it is import ant. That is, that in no case will a pension based upon average pay at the new scales recommended by the Oaksey Committee be less than the pension which a retiring member would have received under the pay and pensions scales at present in force. That is specifically laid down in Regulation 60. Even apart from that regulation, it is a mere matter of arithmetic to discover that anyone who has served for even quite a brief period at the new rates of pay will receive a pension which will not only be not less, but substantially higher, than it would have been on the old rates. Hon. Members will find the table on page 40 of the Report.
I shall give one example, taking the case of a constable who completes 25 years' service, on 1st July this year, the day upon which the new scales are to come into operation. His pension under the pre-Oaksey scales would be £182 a year. If he retires immediately on that day, having not served at all on the new rates, the Oaksey scale would not affect him. He would receive the same amount, namely, £182. But if he goes on for a single year, the scales begin to diverge. Under the old scale, he would have received £195, but under the Oaksey scales, with averaging, it would be £204. A year later, whereas the old scale gives £207, the Oaksey scale gives £227, with averaging; and moving on to 1954, which is the year when he would complete 30 years' service, he would have £280 as against £244. I think that that makes quite clearly my point that initially the new pension, with averaging, cannot be worse, and gets better as the months go by.
The final point is that there is the special provision for those members who were serving on 28th August, 1921. If they are to retire by the operation of the age limit, they will be able to calculate their pensions on actual pay. That is an exception reached in respect of averaging, and I think it will be no surprise to hon. Members that this class should be singled out for special treatment since this is a special class under the provisions of the Police Act of 1921.
There are a number of other recommendations, some of them quite important, but, as I have said, I do not propose to take the House right through them. At the same time, I should mention two or three other matters. It is important not to overlook that, in the Second Schedule, there are increases in what are known as the "Scheme 1 pensions" for widows. The new figures are £50 for widows of constables and sergeants, £60 for widows of inspectors, and £70 for higher ranks. There are also increases for the children's allowances, and there is a transitional allowance for the widows of men who die before qualifying, to enable them to be helped before getting benefits under the National Health Acts. It is provided that service below 20 years, for the first time, shall be reckonable as pensionable service, and there is one provision whereby women's contributions shall be reduced from 5 to 4½ per cent., in line with the lesser benefits received by women.
I hope that I have said enough to show that, while there are no drastic changes in these matters there are some features which will bring substantial benefits; and the new rates of pay will result in appreciably higher pensions in most cases, and lower pensions in none. Whether the new proposals, taken with the rest of the Report, will encourage recruitment and check wastage, I submit to the House it is too early to say; but I think right hon. and hon. Members will agree that it is permissible to hope that that will result, and in that spirit I commend the recommendations to the House.
It is a sorry reflection upon the arrangement of public business made by His Majesty's administration that, after having taken an extra week's holiday at Whitsun, we should be discussing a new code of police pensions with the necessity that, if the Home Secretary's plans are to be fulfilled, they should become law by midnight tomorrow; and, moreover, it is a sad thing that we should begin discussion at this late hour and be forced to complete it after an all-night sitting.
I should like to join in the tribute which the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary has paid to the work of the Oaksey Committee and if in the remarks I am going to make I am somewhat critical of their recommendations in one particular aspect, that must be taken in the light of my statement that their Report is an admirable document lucidly written, clearly expressed, and obviously the result of a great deal of industrious investigation. Pensions are, of course, related to pay, and it is almost impossible to discuss pensions in a vacuum without any reference whatever to pay. If I mention pay it will not be with a view to discussion of the merits of rates of pay. With those we cannot be concerned on this occasion, but pay is the vital factor in the ascertainment of what the pension will be.
This story begins with the Home Secretary's statement of increased rates of pay for the Police Force on 5th November, 1946. The initial rate of pay for constables at that date was raised from 90s. to 105s., and for sergeants from 128s. to 150s. Those were substantial increases of 15s. for constables and 22s. for sergeants. The increase is reasonably comparable to the scale of increases which the right hon. Gentleman is going to adopt as a result of the recommendations of the Oaksey Committee. These arrangements were announced in November, 1946, and were to last for three years. In the meantime the right hon. Gentleman undertook that there should be an inquiry into conditions of service of the Police.
The important thing in relation to those increases of pay is that they carried with them automatic increases in pension based upon the rate of salary in payment at the date of retirement. Retirement on pension as from November, 1946, remained optional to the police officer after 25 years' service; full pension could be earned after 30 years' service; and retirement remained obligatory for constables and sergeants at 55. No suggestion was made then that pensions, instead of being based on salary at the date of retirement should be calculated on the average salary for the last three years of service.
On 22nd March last year there was a Debate in this House on the Consolidated Fund Bill on police conditions which was opened by my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), the Father of the House. The police were at that time as they are still, seriously below strength and the gravity of the position was admitted by the Home Secretary who then agreed that the promised inquiry should take place forthwith instead of waiting until 1949. What had happened was that inflationary rises in prices, and wage increases granted in other employments, had to a large extent invalidated the three-year agreement of 1946. In consequence the Oaksey Committee was appointed on 13th May last year to consider in the light of the need for the recruitment and retention of an adequate number of suitable men and women for the police forces, and to report on pay, emoluments, allowances, pensions, promotions, methods of representation and negotiation, and other conditions of service.
Those were the terms of reference of the Committee, but all that is before us today is Part I of their Report, which was published early in April. Part II, which will be more important than Part I and which deals with all the other matters excepting pay and pensions, is not yet available to us—and that, I think, is surprising in view of the first sentence of Part I of the Report, which says:
We have completed our inquiry and we have the honour to present the First Part of our Report.
If the inquiry was completed so long ago as the early part of April, it seems a little strange that the House should not have had the whole Report, including the second part, at the present time. Nevertheless, the Government have accepted as a whole the recommendations contained in Part I of the Report and which are summarised in the White Paper, Cmd. 7707, "Statement on Pay and Conditions of Service in the Police."
In the meantime, whilst all this has been going on, the Police Pensions Act of 1948 was passed by Parliament in February last year. That Act, under which these regulations are made, brought about a revolutionary change in the method of dealing with police pensions. Certain advantages were claimed for this revolutionary change, which meant that in future the rates of police pensions were to be embodied in regulations and not embodied in statutes. The advantages claimed were that it was frequently thought desirable to make minor amendments in the Act in regard to pensions, and this could be more easily brought about if they were embodied in regulations than if they necessitated the passage of a Bill through Parliament. On that matter, my hon. Friends on this side of the House pointed out the disadvantages of legislation by means of regulation, which means that the House is only free to accept or reject the regulations as a whole. These regulations exemplify that objection very strongly because, whilst they contain many agreeable features in respect of the police and a certain number of improvements, they are in one respect exceedingly defective—and that is in the introduction of the three years' average for the calculation of pension.
I think the House is therefore faced with a great dilemma, because if this matter had been embodied in the Bill,
there is not the slightest doubt that the Government would have been forced by the opinion of Members on both sides of the House to abandon this project for the three years' average in place of the present rate of pay at the date of retirement. A clause in the Police Pensions Act, 1948, was embodied on the Report stage by way of meeting the demands on the Home Secretary by Members on all sides of the House. That Clause formed Section 2 of the Act, headed: "Protection for Serving Members" and the operative words of that Section are these:
Any regulations made under Section 1 of this Act shall be so framed as to ensure that the scale of pensions payable under these regulations is not, unless the serving member elects otherwise, less favourable than the scale applicable in his case immediately before the coming into force of these regulations.
That was read by everybody, including the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who introduced the Clause, as meaning that no regulation could in any way worsen the conditions as regards pension of any member of the Police Force. The hon. Gentleman in introducing the Clause said:
This Clause has been put down to implement an undertaking given last week that we would try to give some guarantee to members of the Police Force now or in the future that their basic conditions could not be worsened by any regulations which might be made.
I do not think anybody could challenge the fact that the substitution of a three years' average of salary before retirement for the actual salary upon retirement date is bound in many cases to worsen the position of the recipient of the pension. This Clause and this assurance were accepted as an undertaking that the regulations would not worsen anybody's condition. I will not weary the House by citing the speeches of other hon. Members who took part in that Debate but that was the generally accepted interpretation of Section 2 of the Act of 1948.
Now we come to the recommendations of the Oaksey Committee upon this matter of police pensions and the recommendation that there should be this three years' average. It seems to me that the attention of the Oaksey Committee was never at any time drawn by anybody to the protection given by Section 2 of the Act of 1948. In the paragraphs which deals with pensionable pay and the suggestion for the future that there should be a three years' average, there is no reference of any sort or kind to Section 2 of the Act of 1948.
As the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State has pointed out, the Oaksey Committee based their case for a three years' average upon two grounds. The first is that the three years' average is the usual thing in the Civil Service for teachers and for local government officers. So far as that contention is concerned, it does seem to me that the result they desire could be reached by introducing the average clause for future entrants to the Police Force and excepting those who are serving in the force at the present time. The second reason given by the Oaksey Committee for suggesting the three years' average is this. They say there are about 7,000 men who have averaged 25 years of service and if any considerable proportion of them retired within the next few months, it would be a serious embarrassment to an already under-manned service. Averaging in pay over the last three years of service would encourage these men to postpone their retirement.
That really is saying, in other words, that we are going to use this averaging as a bludgeon to keep men in the service who would otherwise retire from it. In my opinion, the view that because you are increasing rates of pay and, if you were correspondingly to increase rates of pension, that is going to lead to a spate of retirements from the Police Force is quite unfounded. It is pure surmise upon the part of the Oaksey Committee. In my view, just as many men will be induced to remain in the force by the increased rates of pay being granted, as will be induced to retire from the force by the increased rates of pension which are related to these rates of pay.
That is not only my opinion. It is borne out by actual experience. When the right hon. Gentleman increased the rates of pay in November, 1946, by very substantial figures—15s. for constables and 22s. for sergeants—with pensions increased to a degree corresponding to those increases in pay, there was no spate of retirements from the Police Force. Evidence in the Report is in fact directly to the contrary. During the year 1947 the rates of retirement from the Police Force were infinitely lower than they were in the year 1946. If hon. Members will look at the table set out in paragraph 13 of the Oaksey Committee's report they will see that the number of resignations and retirements from the Police Force in 1946, before pay was increased, was 8,843, and in the year 1947 it fell to 5,235.
There is, therefore, statistical evidence available to show that increasing pay and pensions simultaneously does not lead, and will not lead, to a spate of retirements from the Police Force. I say that this view of the Oaksey Committee, that to give increases in pension corresponding to the increases in pay now proposed would lead to a large number of retirements from the Force, is in fact ill-founded.
It would have been possible for the Oaksey Committee, with all the resources at their disposal, to have made out a case that these men were likely to retire, based upon past statistics, if those statistics were, in fact, available, but the fact is that the statistics which are available disprove the contention that there would be a spate of retirements if pensions were increased proportionately to the new rates of pay. The Oaksey Committee were apparently unaware of the special protection given to serving members by the Act of 1948. The Government, on the other hand, were well aware of this special protection, and in the Command Paper covering the Report of the Oaksey Committee they devoted a very long paragraph—paragraph 15—to explaining the position. They first of all set out their reasons—which incidentally, I regard as very bad reasons—for adopting the average class, and then go on to say:
These recommendations have been accepted as a whole by the Government, and for the reason given by the Committee, the Government would not feel justified in accepting the new scales of pay without introducing the average for pension purposes.
They go on to say that it has been reported to them that to impose the average without giving the members of the Police Force any option would be a breach of the safeguard under Section 2 of the Act of 1948. Then they state that in order to get out of this difficulty, or words to that effect, they have given these men an option, because, under Section 2 of the 1948 Act, we find that conditions shall not be altered unless the police officer so elects. What is the option which is to be given to these men in order to endeavour to comply with Section 2 of the 1948 Act?
It is that they may, if they like, stay on the existing, pre-Oaksey rates of pay, and in that case will get their pensions based on their actual pay on the date of retirement. I think that is a most ridiculous and very unfair option to put to these men. The existing rates of pay have been declared by the Oaksey Committee to be inadequate. They recommend substantial increases. The Government say: "If you stand on your rights under the Act of 1948 and demand to be pensioned on your retiring salary, then you can continue to draw the pre-Oaksey rates of pay and derive no benefit from the benefits recommended by the Committee." I think that is most unfair. Consider the results in the cases of two men in the police force with exactly the same length of service. One is older than the other, is entitled to retire and will get the benefit of paragraph 87 of the regulations. Such a man can go out within the next month if he pleases and get the full pension without the average clause operating. The younger man, with precisely the same service, will have to stay another three years in the force if he is to qualify for the full rate of pension. I say that is unfair and was not contemplated by the authors of the Act of 1948.
I think there will be very evil consequences and repercussions as a result of the operation of this recommendation of the Oaksey Committee, the members of which were not aware of Section 2 of the 1948 Act. I think that the only result—or the main result—of the adoption of this proposal by the Government will be that a large number of older men in the force will feel that they have been badly treated. I will not put it any higher than that—although it might be put nearly as high as a breach of faith with these men on the part of the Government. The Government may gain a little in retaining a few men a little longer than they would have otherwise stayed in the force. Statistically the evidence, so far as it is available, does not prove that they will do so, but I consider that they may by this proposal compel a certain number to stay longer in the force than they would have done. What will the Government lose on the other hand? What will they lose in morale and efficiency? Quite a large number of men, the senior men, in the force who ought to be setting an example to the younger men will feel that they have been maltreated.
This Government has broken faith on more than one occasion with different sections of the community. I think that the iron and steel shareholders and the university electors and various other people have had a raw deal from time to time. If there is one class of the community to which the Government should not give a raw deal it is our Police Force. We depend entirely for law and order in this country on the police. Innumerable tributes have been paid to their magnificent qualities. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can afford to adopt an attitude which will make many thousands of them feel that they have been the victims of some petty economy—some cheese-paring policy designed not so much to save money as to put them under duress to remain in the force for a further period of years. I should have hoped that the objections to this average clause would have been so strong in all parts of the House that the right hon. Gentleman might see his way clear to withdraw these regulations and bring forward new regulations without this obnoxious clause.
I think that the main reason why there is so much criticism of the suggested new pensions arrangements is because we have had no opportunity to discuss to any extent the decisions and findings of the Oaksey Committee. If we had been given that opportunity, and if we had been able to express the opinions held in various local authorities and watch committees throughout the country on the findings of the Committee, it might have made it easier for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to prepare regulations which would have been received with more satisfaction in the force. It is difficult even now to discuss the position fairly because we are to a large extent restricted to discussion of the pensions regulations before us.
As these regulations are based on the altered pay conditions, I believe it might be possible to make one or two general comments, because I do not want to go fully into the question of pensions regulations in view of the comments of the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake). But the difficulty seems to be the length of time that it took the Oaksey Committee to deal with the Report, and prepare the first section. I think the Report makes the excuse that the delay was due to the fact that certain authorities and people did not come forward with the desired evidence soon enough. There was delay in getting the evidence. I find on investigation that the Police Federation had given its evidence very well indeed, but there seemed to be a lack of speed on the part of the municipalities and county authorities. In those circumstances I should have thought it would have been helpful if the Home Secretary had decided to put the pay recommendations into operation retrospectively. That, of course, would have helped in averaging the pension over the last three years of service.
There is a very great amount of dissatisfaction among the police forces. They know that in the past there have been all sorts of regulations dealing with their conditions a bit at a time, and they had hoped that with a full and comprehensive report the difficulties of the past would have been smoothed out, and the position generally of the forces throughout the country would have been regularised.
There is a feeling that if the rent was included in rates of pay that the pension arrangements would be different from what they are. There are items of that sort which, I contend, ought to have been discussed before the regulations were laid at all. There are a number of items which would seriously affect the question of the pensions regulations we are discussing. I know how awkward it is under the Rules of the House to discuss these matters, but they ought to have been discussed prior to these regulations being brought in. Unfortunately I should be outside the Rules of Order if I pursued these points, but I do hope the Home Secretary will look at these questions, particularly the one about the three years' averaging, which I know is causing great dissatisfaction among the police forces generally.
I hope the hon. Lady will not mind if I do not follow her too far in what she said except to echo the general comment that there is unhappiness and dissatisfaction among the police with regard to the Oaksey Report in respect of pensions. I feel strongly indeed about discussing a most important issue at such a peculiar hour after we have put in so much work. I did not get to bed at all last night, and the night before I had only three hours' sleep. On this vital issue I am going to cut out much of the detail because, quite frankly, I am too tired to concentrate on it. However, I bring these things to the notice of the Home Secretary in all good faith.
I have the privilege of taking a considerable interest in police youth clubs where I have been able to get the reactions of the members of the force, for instance to the Oaksey Report. The comments I am about to make are completely above party politics. Tonight we are perfectly in order in discussing this matter as individuals, and there is no party issue involved. I hope that the Home Secretary will bear in mind what I say, considering that I am really trying to echo the present feelings of members of the force on the Oaksey Report.
As the hon. Lady said, the general reaction is very unfavourable. That is most markedly so among those men who are classified as the lower grades. I have heard such comments as "We are fed up, frankly," and "It is worse than before." I feel that the Home Secretary would wish me to tell him that. He would like to think that the police are satisfied with these pensions suggestions, and I think he would wish to know the general reactions to the suggestions in the Report. The police have done such a grand job of work that it is up to us to give them as much satisfaction as we can under present conditions. I have studied the Report most carefully, and I feel that it acknowledges that the police in our land are in a special position generally in relation to the community as a whole, and should be reasonably free from financial worry——
I am very conscious of the fact that I must keep to the pensions, but the financial position of the members of the police is tied up with these Pensions Regulations.
In paragraph 135, the Committee proposes a measure which would create anxiety, I feel, which was removed by the Police Pensions Act, 1948. I cannot see how this paragraph can provide contentment, the need for which is indicated in paragraph 25 of this Report. Under the Police Pensions Act, 1948, any member of a police force is entitled to his pension after 25 years. I know that I may be echoing some of the comments of my hon. Friend, but I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you will forgive me. Members of police forces will not accept without considerable misgiving this new proposal which cancels this absolute right.
It has been stressed that the Report which we are discussing is only the first part. Presumably there are recommendations to come. Yet, in Command Paper No. 7707, it is clearly stated that it is proposed that the commencing date of the Pensions Regulations shall be 1st July, 1949, which is less than a couple of days away. Does this mean that members of the police forces must decide immediately whether to accept a new contract and have their pensions calculated on average pay, and at the same time relinquish the absolute right to a secure pension after 25 years? Are members of the police forces not to be given any time to consider the deliberations of this House tonight about this particular matter? Are they not to be allowed to see the full Report before signing what I honestly believe to be an irrevocable document?
As I see it, under the new proposals for pensions based on average pay for three years, anyone due to retire this year will have to serve another three years to get the new rates. I hope I am wrong in thinking that that is so; but it is an important point. Under the Police Pensions Act, 1921, many men added another five years to their service by the change to two-thirds pension after some 30 years of service. Together with this possible three years, to which I have referred, in my opinion that may make an additional eight years' service. By the extension of the possible length of service, the police officer is actually working for only a proportion of his pay during those years, because he would otherwise be receiving at least half-pay as pension. His real beneficial income, therefore, obviously must decrease with his further length of service.
On an actuarial basis, there is not sufficient attraction, in my opinion, in the new rates for the lower grades to make them wish to extend their service. The inducement to stay on these three years is far greater for the higher ranks than for the lower grades, and one may expect the higher grades to accept the position a little more readily. If they do, this in turn will prejudice the chances of promotion from the lower ranks. I feel, and I know that members of the police forces feel, that this will create further dissatisfaction. I will not detain the House, and I will finish by asking whether, if the new rates do not apply immediately for the purpose of pension, the Home Secretary could not say that the average pay can be calculated retrospectively from May, 1948, when the Oaksey Committee was appointed?
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman for North Croydon (Mr. Frederic Harris) is so tired; but he really cannot blame us for that. It was his own party which did all the talking last night and throughout the early hours of yesterday morning. But I say quite sincerely that I appreciated the tone of his speech, which was without party prejudices, and it is a pity that his right hon. Friend who spoke from the Front Bench did not do the same. The imputation that the Government are letting down the police is utter nonsense. The police know and recognise that this Labour Government has done more than the party opposite has done for them for a long time. The anomalies which have been mentioned have been in existence for a great many years. I do join issue with the hon. Member about the averaging of the pensions recommended by the report.
There is an anomaly which breaks down in the terms of reference of the Oaksey Committee; those terms were to find ways and means to stop people leaving the police and to find ways of encouraging new recruits. I do not think that the report is going to do that because, first of all, anyone due for retirement will stay on, particularly if a sergeant or inspector, in order to qualify for higher pension. A constable can see little chance of promotion, and he will resign forthwith. Figures and statistics of resignations from the police—the specific figure was actually 12.6 per cent.—are of those men who have entered and left within two years. They left, I submit, because the promotion prospects are so poor and, secondly, because of the nature of the job.
These figures should have conveyed to the Oaksey Committee that averaging will not solve this problem. There are anomalies which are very unfair, and I am sincere in this point. It is the point which is causing unhappiness among the police; they do not quarrel with the rates of pay and pension. I agree with the hon. Member for North Croydon in his point with regard to the time taken for the Oaksey Committee to arrive at its decisions. It is fundamental in all the industrial disputes which we have today that the negotiating machinery takes too long to reach a decision. I should have thought that the Committee could have functioned in less than a year, and I think there is a danger of creating friction where it could have been avoided.
There is one further point in Cmd. 7707. In this House a number of policemen are employed and we can see the anomaly that affects some of them. A man who is going to retire or who is compelled to retire at 55 will receive £5 7s. 3d. pension a week. A man who has done precisely the same number of years service and who is also due to retire but is not 55, has to do another three years before he gets a pension. If he retires at once, although he may have done his 30 years service, he will get only £4 13s. 4d. I hope the Home Secretary will look at this matter again and realise that this criticism is levelled for the purpose of trying to help the police.
Having taken some part in the proceedings under the 1948 Pensions Act on which these regulations are based, I should like to say a word with regard to the three years' average. It is necessary to recall the atmosphere in which the debates took place when the Bill was first introduced. There was considerable apprehension in the force that pension rates and conditions, which hitherto had been enshrined in an Act of Parliament, were going to be made subject to regulation. In response
to that feeling, the Home Secretary took certain steps. In favour of doing this by regulation it was argued that, through the impact of the National Insurance scheme and the fact that it might be necessary to make alterations in police pensions, it would be clumsy to have to introduce a new Act every time and it might result in improvements being delayed. To meet the apprehensions of the police the Home Secretary, on the Report stage of the Bill, introduced a new Clause in which it was understood at the time that existing pensions conditions were to be made absolutely secure. Introducing this Clause the Under-Secretary said:
The Clause has been put down to implement the undertaking given last week that we would try to give a guarantee to members of the Police Force, now or in future, that their basic conditions would not be worsened by any regulation which might be made."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July 1948; Vol. 447, c. 2274.]
He went on to say that this was a continuing guarantee to new entrants in that at the point they came in, no subsequent regulation should worsen their conditions. One of the conditions of a pension is the method of assessment and it is worsening the condition of a pension, however one argues the new rates of pay, to base it on a three-year average and not on the rate of pay at the date of retirement. What happens? The Oaksey Committee, not apparently as the right hon. Gentleman said, having taken note of this provision in the 1948 Act, recommends increased pay, but the Secretary of State is now saying to existing members, "Unless you elect to accept worsened condition of pensions, I shall not give you the rise which the Oaksey Committee recommend."
I submit to the House—and this is not a party point—that the Home Secretary may be within the letter of the law, but he is certainly not within the spirit in which the House accepted this Clause to safeguard men already in the force. I believe that if the Home Secretary is to keep the undertaking given to and as understood by the House at the time, both in the letter and the spirit, if he wants to adopt averaging at all, he must confine it to new entrants who come in after the regulations have come into force. Otherwise the Home Secretary is not keeping the undertaking given. He is getting round it by saying to the men "Unless you elect to do what I want you to do, I am going to keep your pay down." Has he realised that it strikes one in that way? I believe that that is one of the causes of the resentment felt about the three years' provision—that the right hon. Gentleman is taking away from existing members of the force their free power of election under the Section of the 1948 Act.
I really do press the Home Secretary to reconsider the matter. I believe that it is very short-sighted and that it will leave a feeling in the minds of the police that the Home Secretary can drive a coach-and-horses through the guarantee they had in the 1948 Act. That will not conduce to good feeling in the Police Force. These regulations must come into force, but there is nothing to prevent the Home Secretary from saying that he will introduce an amending regulation to put this matter right, which I believe he should do. He will then be taking advantage of the very procedure for which this Act was designed—he can put the thing right by making it a matter of regulation without having to come back to the House with a Bill.
If the Home Secretary does reconsider this, I believe he will go a long way towards putting right the feeling which exists at the moment and he will put back confidence in the Police Force that they will not be let down on an undertaking given to them. I do not want to say any more about the merits of the three years' average in regard to future entrants. There is no question there of an undertaking going by the board. I believe it is wrong, but the point I am addressing myself to is that the Home Secretary will leave a nasty taste in the mouth of the present members of the force if he makes them elect to worsen the conditions for pensions as the price of getting what the Oaksey Committee say they should get.
As I expected, the greater part of the discussion has taken place round this question of averaging. The Oaksey Committee were perfectly aware of Section 2 of the Police Pensions Act, 1948. They quote it in paragraph 161 and they say:
On balance we feel that the greater facility of amendment which is possible under the new
arrangement is an advantage to the service. We hope, for example, that it will enable the recommendations which we made on the subject of pensions to be implemented almost immediately.
They not only knew of its existence, but they expected that it would be used in bringing their recommendations into effect.
I had a discussion with the noble and learned Chairman of the Committee, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the paragraph which I have just quoted quite accurately embodied their views. Now, do let us examine what the position will be. There are a number of men who, during the next three years, will be retired compulsorily from the Police Force because they have reached the maximum age—a constable at 55, a sergeant at the same age, a provincial inspector at 60, a Metropolitan inspector at 55, a provincial superintendent at 60, a Metropolitan superintendent at 55, and a chief constable at 65. Some men during the next three years will, in fact, reach these ages and will be compulsorily retired.
With regard to these men, we provide that those of them who were in the service on 28th August, 1921, shall be retired on a pension based on their actual pay so that these men get exactly the same conditions as they would have got had there been no averaging introduced. The other men who are in the force will get their pension, not on average, but on actual salary. Now, every other man in the force who retires on age limit will have three years at the maximum of his scale before he retires. Therefore, it does not matter to him whether he averages or not, because the average of three years at the maximum will, of course, be the maximum. So I cannot myself see that any real grievance is suffered by any man.
Surely, the whole point is that when these men joined up, they were told it was 25 years, then it was increased to 30 years, and now they are told it is 33 years. Surely that is not right.
I do not think my hon. Friend has followed the argument I have used. The only man who might suffer on going out on the age limit would be a man who gets promotion during his last three years of service. It is a most unusual thing in the Police Force for a man to get a promotion carrying an increase of salary in his last three years, but if he does it now, under the existing law, he averages. Therefore, he is not in any worse position.
Might I put one case here? Take the hypothetical case of a man who has just been promoted and who then has an accident or has to be retired from the service and goes on to a pension proportionate to his service. Under present conditions, I think I am right in saying that he would get a proportionate pension based on his rate.
As I am advised, where a man's promotion comes within the three years, now he has a three years' average applied. I do desire to assure hon. Members that I have given very close attention to this matter in an endeavour to see that, as far as I can avoid it, no man shall in fact suffer an injury in the way that is suggested. It is, of course, a very complicated matter.
The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) drew some deductions from the figures on page 5 of the Report, which I do not think are quite justified. The enormous number of retirements in 1946 was due to the fact that on 31st December, 1945, I "unfroze" the police. I am bound to tell the House that when I met the Police Council and discussed this matter with them very carefully and at great length—and it was then agreed that there was no other course open to me but to adopt this procedure—their grievance was that men who had not reached the maximum ought to be able to retire.
In fact we were told that a number of men who had attained their 25 years' service had merely stayed on for a few months while the Oaksey Committee was sitting, and that they intended to retire as soon as the new scales of pay came into operation on 1st July. There are 7,000 men in the English and Welsh Police Forces who would be eligible to go out on 2nd July and claim to be pensioned on pay that they had only drawn for one day. I do not know what the figure is for Scotland, but I understand that proportionately it might be even higher than it is in England. That is not a position that anyone responsible for the administration of the Police Force in this country could contemplate for one minute. One of the difficulties that I have to face is the fact that most of the large forces in the country are very considerably undermanned.
I think that is a rather unnatural case which the right hon. Gentleman has quoted. What about the genuine case of the man who is about to retire this year? Is it not a fact that he has to serve another three years to enjoy the new rates?
If he serves three additional years he gets the advantage both of his length of service and the increased pay. He gets very substantial advantage from staying on. I have the responsibility, as police authority for the Metropolis, of providing police officers for the hon. Gentleman's constituency, and frankly I could not contemplate a situation in which I lost 1,000 men during the coming year, or coming three years, if they could go out under the conditions I have mentioned. May I say this also? The Police Federation has always been strongly opposed to having men working in the police forces under two different systems. They have always held that it makes for great difficulty in actual administration if one man is working under one system and scale and another man is working under another.
May I say to my hon. Friend for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock) that one really cannot contemplate bringing rent into pensionable allowances. I do not know whether hon. Members are aware of the great advantages which the police pensions have over other public schemes, which I have been able to discover. The value of the pension to a policeman as a percentage of pay is 25 per cent. In the Civil Service it is 18 per cent. The teachers' scheme is just going under investigation. It is known to be more than 10 per cent., and I think it is somewhere between 12 and 14 per cent. The percentage of the local government officers' scheme is between 14 and 15. The teachers' and local government officers' pensions are calculated on an average of five years.
I am bound to say that, on the merits of the issue, I think the average system is right. It is applied in the Civil Service and in nearly every other form of public service, so far as I know, and I think that the arguments adduced in favour of it by the Oaksey Committee were quite sound. If I were to add rent to the pensions, as I could have done under the regulations, what would have happened? A police constable living in a house which he rents for himself at Bognor, or some other expensive town on the South Coast, would probably be getting 25s. or 30s. a week added to his pensionable pay; whereas a man living in a police house would only be getting perhaps 14 shillings or even less added, and that would create an anomaly and an unjust distribution of pensions that no one could justify.
It may have been calculated as an emolument, but not as a pensionable emolument. When I first took office I was faced with the appalling conditions which confronted constables, in the kind of expensive area I have mentioned, who got a very limited rent allowance, and I have tried to ensure that what a constable actually pays for rent shall be reimbursed to him; but I could not contemplate that it might be added to his pension when he might go off to somewhere quite cheap and live on it.
With regard to paragraph 135, that is not a matter on which an officer will have to elect. Section (2) relates to scales of pay, and paragraph 135 does not deal with scales of pay. It says that if a man is dismissed from the force, he shall lose his pension rights, but he shall have the money he has paid in refunded. There is a possibility that a man, who has been sentenced to be dismissed by his chief constable in a county, or by the watch committee in a borough, can appeal to the Secretary of State, and a not uncommon punishment is not dismissal but requirement to resign. If the man is required to resign, this penalty does not follow, but if he has been guilty of such gross misconduct in the force as to warrant the sentence of dismissal being confirmed, I am inclined to think that this penalty which is recommended by the Oaksey Committee can be justified.
This is a very important point. When talking about dismissal, it is obvious to many of us that there is often a clash of opinion between people in important positions. For instance, may I point out the example of the case at Brighton not long ago?
If a man is requested to resign, the penalty does not attach. If he is dismissed by the chief constable or the watch committee he has the right of appeal to the Secretary of State, and if there is any clash of opinion then it must be in the man's favour. I think that the position of the man as put by the hon. Gentleman is reasonably safeguarded.
The right hon. Member for North Leeds made some comments on the Oaksey Committee. I want to express my sincere thanks to the Oaksey Committee for the work they did, and for the detailed care with which they did it. The remaining part of their Report will not deal with these financial matters. It will deal with promotion, methods of representation, negotiation, and other conditions of service. It may very well be that one of the results of their further investigation may be to set up machinery which will enable negotiations to take place between the Police Force and the police authorities in circumstances more analogous to what happens in other branches of the public service than at present exists in respect of the Police Force.
I can say that I most carefully abstained from expressing any views to the Oaksey Committee until they had formulated this part of their Report. I did see their Chairman because I was anxious—as the House is anxious—to bring these improvements into effect at the earliest possible moment. I am thankful to the House for having put itself to the inconvenience of sitting tonight so that we can get these improvements through.
May I say to the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool that I was exceedingly anxious that, if possible, these improvements should be made retrospective, but I am bound to say, owing to a difficulty in the law, it is not possible to make regulations such as these, or the Police Regulations on which pay is based, retrospective. I regret it very much indeed, but by exercising great pressure on the Police Council, and driving the House rather hard, I have been able to ensure, if the House passes these regulations tonight, that the full benefits of the recommendations of the Oaksey Committee shall attach to the Police Force as from the day after tomorrow.
I did raise the point whether, if the new rates could not apply immediately for the pension, the average pay could not be calculated from May, 1948, when this Committee was first appointed.
I beg to move:
That the Draft Police Pensions (Scotland) Regulations, 1949, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th May, be approved.
These regulations submitted by my right hon. Friend are similar in all the main essentials to the regulations just approved by the House. I do not think the House will want me to speak at any length in explaining them at this hour. It is appreciated that while there are one or two minor technical differences between the regulations in Scotland and those in England and Wales, inasmuch as these draft regulations are implementing the recommendations of the Oaksey Committee, they are exactly similar to the regulations just passed.
I must say that I have seldom heard a more perfunctory recommendation on an important proposal to the House at any time, and certainly not under the conditions in which the Government brings forward these regulations now. We expect an apology from the Secretary of State for Scotland for bringing Scottish business before the House at all at this time. For what reason does he bring on important Scottish business at 20 minutes to 1 o'clock in the morning dragged at the tail of an English discussion? [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite find it funny. They will not find it so funny in Scotland. We have before us an important matter touching the Police Forces of Scotland. It is brought before us after long Sittings of the House, when the House has to devote the whole of the next Sitting to Scottish affairs, and without a word of explanation or apology from the responsible Minister for bringing Scottish business forward in such circumstances and at such a time. It is inexcusable, and that is the first point it is necessary to make.
Secondly, it is wrong for the Under-Secretary to state that these are similar in all respects to the English regulations. I have here letters from chief constables in Scotland bringing forward the point that conditions in Scotland differ in some respects very materially from the conditions which apply in England. Does the Under-Secretary deny that?
The right hon. Gentleman is making very heavy weather of this matter. I said that inasmuch as these regulations are implementing the recommendations of the Oaksey Report they are exactly similar to those which have just been approved by the House. That is a statement of fact. It may be that some conditions in the Scottish Police Forces are different from some conditions in the English Police Forces, but that has nothing to do with whether these regulations implement the recommendations of the Report or not.
The hon. Member has a guilty conscience, I was not looking at him. The letter of the Chief Constable of the City of Glasgow says that at the half-yearly meeting of the Chief Constables' Association, held on the 9th, it was agreed that all chief constables in Scotland should communicate with the M.P.s for their areas drawing attention to the position of chief constables displaced on the amalgamation of police forces, enclosing a memorandum in accordance with that decision, and saying:
If you can do anything to prevent the pensions of chief constables being subject to
averaging it will be greatly appreciated by all chief constables in Scotland.
Addressed in similar terms is a letter from the Chief Constable of the Berwick, Roxburgh and Selkirk Constabulary, who points out that while he is not affected, personally, he sympathises with the position of his colleagues who are affected and who, he feels, are receiving a raw deal. These are representations from people who have the highest responsibility, and it is vital to Scotland that they should not have any sense of having received injustice or a raw deal.
One difficulty of taking a discussion such as this at such an hour is that the possibility of explanation, which is one of the purposes of Debate, is necessarily stultified.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is asking for an explanation. There is nothing to prevent an explanation and discussion. It can go on as long as it did last night, when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was not here.
I was here last night, as the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister) can testify. Hon. Members opposite do not seem to realise the point of the argument, which is that explanation is not merely explanation to this Chamber, but explanation to the country at large. Do they really think that explanation to the country at large is going to have the same force just now, as it would if the Secretary of State for Scotland had brought on this business for discussion when the papers, both here and in Scotland, could observe and report our Debate, and when those important individuals who have approached us could be sure that their representations were receiving adequate consideration from this House? [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is keeping the Scottish Press out?"] The Secretary of State for Scotland is keeping the Scottish Press out, and he is being supported by hon. Members of the majority party of this House.
Really, the hon. Member's gambols in the Debates in this House are very entertaining, but I think they are a little out of place in a serious Debate such as this. The representations of the chief constables of cities like Glasgow, and of important counties, cannot simply be brushed aside by the suggestion that there are evening newspapers in Scotland. We do not consider that the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) is entitled to have his affairs discussed at a more convenient hour than the affairs of Scotland. We consider that it is the duty of the Secretary of State for Scotland to secure discussion of our affairs at an hour which they can receive adequate discussion and adequate reporting in the Press. That is the very purpose for which such Debates exist, to clear away misapprehension which may exist, and to afford opportunity for the redress of grievances.
Before the right hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves that point and moves on to the subject under discussion, he might think it right to put on record in the Scottish evening and morning newspapers that at the time that he was making all this fuss there were only three Scottish Conservative Members present.
Perhaps the hon. Member will also realise that there is even less than that proportion of Scottish Labour Members present and that, if I may say so, is nothing to do with the case. It is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland to bring on Scottish business when it can be adequately discussed, a responsibility which he has scandalously failed to discharge on this occasion.
The hon. Gentleman must be including, surely, the three Scottish Ministers; but they are the men on trial. They are the guilty men who have done the damage. There is the Lord Advocate, the Secretary of State, and the Under-Secretary; these are the people who have failed Scotland. We do not wish to bring this matter to an end, but it would not be too difficult to bring it to an end and have them all shown up tonight.
We do not desire to hold up matters in Scotland, but we do desire to have these questions adequately considered, and I should like to know what answer we can have from the Secretary of State to the question which the chief constables have brought up. The Home Secretary said, "Of course, chief constables who have retired at 65 years have pensions based on their actual pay." But that does not apply to the people who lose their posts by reason of amalgamations and it is doubly unfair, since the increases have been made to the junior ranks, that the pay increases of the senior ranks have been held up owing to the "freeze" resulting from the paper on incomes put out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. These salaries were not increased, and the sums upon which these calculations are to be made were artificially "frozen."
Now the Chief Constables Association points out that not only the non-county boroughs specifically provided for in the Act which enable amalgamations to be carried out, are concerned, but two county boroughs have been amalgamated so far. In Scotland several chief constables have been displaced. Some were near retiring age, and more amalgamation schemes are under consideration. Is it denied that these things are so?
The right hon. Gentleman agrees. Will he consent then to the request that these people who most suffer—these people who lose most because they lose office on account of amalgamation—should not be subject to averaging? For, so far, he has refused to accede to this, and the Under-Secretary might surely, quite justly, have referred to these in commending these regulations to the House.
The Secretary of State has so far come down against all representations to secure better treatment for displaced chief constables. That surely is a matter which at any rate should be mentioned in the House, and I should have thought it would have been defended by the representative of the Government. It is not a subject on which he could have been ignorant or which he could suppose that the House would allow to go through without discussion. Why did the Secretary of State try to shirk all reference to the representations made by the three most responsible police officers in the whole force—the chief constables—who had been moved by a sense of injustice to address themselves to their head, the Secretary of State, and, failing to receive any satisfaction from him, to address themselves directly to hon. Members? It is not possible to suppose that the Under-Secretary expected these representations to receive no consideration from hon. Members and it was bound to delay consideration of the regulations laid before us.
I must appeal to the Secretary of State; why has he so far refused to give any consideration to the request put forward by the chief constables detailed in the memorandum they submitted to us and, no doubt, in memoranda and other representations they have made to him? Has he met them? Will he inform us on that point? Has he afforded these important and responsible officers an opportunity of laying their case personally before him? Surely he can answer that?
We shall await that because we were not afforded any of this information by the Minister who was put up to make the Government case on these regulations.
There is another point. The Home Secretary gave us figures of the number of constables in England and Wales due to go out and who, had it not been for the passing of the regulations, would have drawn pensions on pay they had only enjoyed for 24 hours. He said he was not able to give the figures for Scotland, but they could be given. What are the figures for Scotland and why did not the Under-Secretary give them since the matter had been raised in debate and referred to by the Home Secretary? These are among the matters which we wish to have explained to us. Surely, with so short a margin of time left before these regulations had to come into effect, it would have been more seemly if a little more explanation could have been given. It is bound to create in the minds of those affected a suspicion that matters have been held up by the Government until the last possible moment when these regulations are handed to the House between midnight and 1 o'clock in the morning with a most perfunctory few sentences from a junior Minister of the Crown. If the House had accepted that it would have failed in its duty, and we are entitled to a more extended statement from the Secretary of State and hope he will be able to make a more convincing case than the Under-Secretary.
I want to ask the Secretary of State a question on this matter, as I have received a letter from the chief constable of the County of Renfrew in which he states:
At a recent meeting of the Chief Constables (Scotland) Association, very keen disappointment was expressed by every member regarding the treatment being meted out to displaced chief constables and it was decided that each chief constable would place the facts before the M.P. for his district.
He then goes on to outline the various documents that he has sent, and this is the point in his letter with which I would like the Secretary of State to deal:
In the event of the suggested amendment becoming a reality, a chief constable being displaced at a too early age—for example, the chief constables of the Burgh of Dumbarton and the County of Aberdeen—is in the same position as to pensions as a chief constable, for example, the chief constable of Kincardineshire, retiring because of the maximum age-limit.
I would like the Secretary of State to deal with that particular point, because I want to have the chief constable of my county, as well as others, satisfied on the point.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman asked why the Under-Secretary of State did not deal with the possible points that might be raised in the Debate. I think he will agree that it is surely a great discourtesy to the House if hon. Members likely to put points do not at least get a chance of putting them. I am sure that even the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that had the Under-Secretary explained the points, there would have been nothing left for him to make a speech about. So, instead of complaining, he should thank us for leaving one item to be discussed on the Scottish regulations.
First of all, the difficulty in discussing the question whether this or that item of the recommendations should be altered is that this Committee was actually instituted at the request of the Scottish Federation in order that all of this matter should be referred to an independent inquiry. Of course, that Committee took evidence and gave a great deal of thought and attention to this work. The Oaksey Committee presented its Report and the Home Secretary and myself gave consideration to its recommendations. The Home Secretary met the Police Council in London and I met the Police Council in Scotland. I discussed the matter with them and they, like the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, had certain points of objection, and quite a number of other people have other points of objection, to which the police would not give a wholehearted welcome either.
A great number of those points were put to me which ought to have been put to the Oaksey Committee. The choice before us really was whether we were going to re-open the whole question again and set ourselves up as a new Oaksey Committee to re-examine every point again. I respectfully suggest to the House, as I suggested to the Council, that to do that would have meant interminable delay. On the question of getting a settlement there is no guarantee that if we once start to re-discuss this, we will get any more of an agreed settlement than that represented by the Oaksey Report.
I think it is quite a remarkable report, but if I were asked to give my personal views about some of its recommendations, I would have some complaints as well. The situation with the Police Council was that we were bound to consider the question in regard to police objections, but in regard to other people's objections it had to be recognised that this was a Committee set up partly at the request of the police. A quite remarkable Report was presented and the Police Council discussed it, and, although they objected to certain points, they decided that they would accept the Report, whose recommendations on pensions they wanted put into force by 1st July of this year. I think that is far more important to the police than even the limited number of objections they have to special points in the Report. Since the alternative was either to throw the thing into the melting pot again or to go ahead with the Report as a whole, the Police Council in Scotland decided to go ahead with the Report as a whole.
In these discussions, the chief constables took part. In fact, members of all ranks of the police took part. The chief constables had every opportunity to raise any points to which they objected. In that particular meeting the only point raised was the question of averaging, which has occupied a good deal of attention tonight. In addition, my officers met the chief constables' officials on my behalf on 19th May. It was not possible for me to be there. A very cordial discussion took place on the point specially raised by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite and by my hon. Friend the Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Scollan).
Let me admit right away that there is an element of hardship in this application of the averaging rule, but there is no rule one can ever introduce in deciding pensions that does not have its marginal cases which bring about hardship. Take the circumstances in Scotland, where we hope to be amalgamating police forces. They place a certain number of chief constables in the position that undoubtedly they feel that they suffer a disability as the result of this averaging. These chief constables, if they are not retiring on age limit, have the option, of course, of continuing to serve in the force in a subordinate capacity, but I appreciate that a man who has been a chief constable and who has reached a mature age hesitates very much about accepting such a position.
On the representations being made to me, I looked very sympathetically into this question whether we could do something to meet their peculiar position, but I came up against the difficulty that frequently occurs in such cases. I found that it created immediately the implication that a large number of other cases of a similar character would have to be admitted as well, and indeed the averaging principle that the Oaksey Committee have laid down with such fairness would have to be departed from in a great many cases. Therefore, it would be a breach in the acceptance of the Oaksey Report as a whole.
I should like to express my sympathy to those chief constables, because undoubtedly the amalgamation schemes are not of their seeking. In many ways the schemes come about whether they want them or not, and in some cases they may come about despite their feelings in the matter; and it does seem a disadvantage that a man should suffer a disability through no fault of his own. Therefore, all I can do in the matter is to express my sympathy to them in the situation and explain that it would be quite impossible to relax in their case without involving ourselves in an innumerable number of cases that cannot be admitted in accordance with the principle that has been discussed.
I regret that it is necessary for the House of Commons to conduct its business in the early hours of the morning. That is no hobby of mine, and I sometimes regret the religious propensities of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, who insist on praying at the wrong hour of the morning. Frequently, I would much rather be in bed and conduct my religious devotions at the proper time. I am quite sure there are a number of hon. Members who regret that we do not organise our hours according to the normal life of man; but I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite must accept, on behalf of his colleagues, some responsibility for perpetuating this habit that it is part of the Opposition's business to keep the Government out of bed. I assure him, if he is prepared to use his influence with his hon. Friends, I am prepared to give every welcome to his assistance in trying to get the business of the House conducted at the proper time.
The right hon. Gentleman must know, I think, as the Under-Secretary knows, that this business might well have been taken tomorrow night at a more seemly hour, and I do not think the Government would have lost anything by so doing.
The right hon. Gentleman is in error. If it had been taken, as I offered, before midnight tomorrow night, nothing whatever would have been lost. The business would have been done and the police would have been satisfied.
I am sure that for such a good cause the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has been quite prepared to sacrifice this extra hour of sleep. I propose helping him in every way by concluding my remarks. I thank the House for being as brief as it has been in this matter. I hope the police will recognise that at this time of national stringency, when the White Paper recommends that there should be great restraint in demands for increases in pay, they at least have come very fortunately out of the bag. Nobody gets all he wants, but I think the police ought to feel satisfied that the Government have done everything they can to implement the Oaksey Report without delay.