The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) exaggerates when he says I am very anxious to address the House, although I am very willing to do so. It may assist hon. Members if I explain that these rather formidable looking Regulations have, nevertheless, a simple and felicitous purpose. They are to give the widows and children of certain deceased police officers the benefits of increases in their awards, which correspond to those provided by the National Insurance (No. 2) Act, 1957.
I do not propose to discuss the Regulations in detail unless any hon. Member has any question in particular which he wishes to raise, but I should like to say a word about their general background.
Since 5th July, 1948, police officers have contributed to the National Insurance scheme, like everyone else, and their widows and children can, therefore, qualify for the appropriate benefits. Before July, 1948, police officers were excluded from State insurance even as voluntary contributors, and, accordingly, some widows and children of deceased police officers are not entitled to National Insurance benefits. For example, an officer may have died before the introduction of the scheme of 5th July, 1948, or he may have been too old to enter the scheme on that date, or he may have died before he was able to pay sufficient contributions to qualify his dependants for an award.
Parliament, during the passage of the Police Pensions Act, 1948, took the view that the widows and children of such officers should not be left at a disadvantage, and police authorities were accordingly empowered to increase their basic awards under the police pensions scheme by amounts equivalent to the appropriate National Insurance benefits. Those amounts have from time to time been increased to take account of improvements in the National Insurance scheme.
The House will recollect that the National Insurance (No. 2) Act, 1957, has provided for increases in the rate of National Insurance benefits which are to take effect from 27th January, 1958. The purpose of these draft Regulations is to make it possible to apply corresponding increases to these supplementary awards under the police pensions scheme. If the House approves the Regulations, the increases will also take effect from 27th January of next year.
The Regulations take the form of amendments to three existing sets of Police Pensions Regulations, those of 1948, 1949 and 1955. My right hon. Friend regrets that it should be necessary to legislate by reference in this way, but the statutory safeguards which were written into the Police Pensions Act, 1948, providing for existing pensions, prevent consolidation in the normal sense of that term.
The most my right hon. Friend can do is to enact a fresh set of Regulations governing future awards. Each time he does this he creates a fresh tier of Regulations for police authorities to operate. It must, therefore, obviously be a power to be exercised sparingly. He appreciates that there have now been a substantial number of Amendments to the 1955 Regulations. He therefore proposes to introduce a fresh set of Regulations for future awards in the course of next year.
The purpose of these Regulations is to assist widows and children of certain deceased police officers. I believe that this is a body of pensioners who deserve well of the community and whose well-being the House has at heart. I therefore confidently commend them to the House.
These Regulations, as far as I understand, give effect to the increases made to widows and children under the latest National Insurance Act. I, and, I am sure, all hon. Members on this side of the House, would have been pleased to see these increases greater than they are. Of course, I understand that the Home Secretary could not make the increases for these widows covered by these Regulations any greater than those increases given effect to in the National Insurance (No. 2) Act, 1957.
I take it that the Secretary of State for Scotland had consultations with the Scottish Police Council and that there was general agreement between the Secretary of State and the Scottish Police Council in these matters. We welcome the increases as far as they go, because many of the widows of these policemen and their children have suffered very greatly in the past. We welcome any increase, but we hope that in future the increases will follow a National Insurance Bill that deals much more adequately with matters like the cost of living.