Police Pensions

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd April 1958.

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7.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

I beg to move, That the Draft Police Pensions (No. 2) Regulations, 1958, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th March, be approved. These draft Regulations have two purposes. They provide for the commutation of police pensions—

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

May I interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman? I have read the Regulations. The English and Scottish Regulations appear to contain practically identical provisions. Is it convenient, therefore, to both sides of the House to discuss, at the same time, the Motion in the name of the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Photo of Mr Anthony Greenwood Mr Anthony Greenwood , Rossendale

It is certainly convenient from our point of view on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

The Regulations under consideration have two purposes. I think the House will agree without hesitation that both those purposes are beneficial from the point of view of the people holding rights to them. First, they provide for the commutation of police pensions, and, secondly, they extend the existing facilities for the allocation of sums from police pensions in favour of dependants. In achieving these purposes they give effect to unanimous recommendations of the Police Council for Great Britain, which contains representatives of the police authorities and of serving officers. If the House approves the Regulations, they will come into operation on 14th April. I do not want to take up time by referring to these complicated amending Regulations in great detail, but my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland or myself will be glad to answer any points of detail or of substance which hon. Members may have.

It might be helpful if I explained that the proposed arrangements for commutation will introduce an entirely new feature into the police pensions scheme, although it is a feature which appears in several other schemes in the public service. At present the retiring award for a police officer consists of a pension only, payable in the usual way periodically. The draft Regulations provide, however, that an officer who has completed thirty years' service or more shall have an option of surrendering up to one-sixth of his pension in return for a lump sum.

Perhaps I may mention in passing that it is hoped these facilities for police officers who are entitled to a maximum pension—the maximum being that to which an officer is entitled after thirty years' service—will offer some inducement to officers to continue serving after twenty-five years, which is the time when they first qualify for pension. The House will remember that this is a matter on which the Select Committee on Estimates had certain comments to make when considering it and publishing a Report not long ago.

Whilst thirty years' service will be the normal requirement, the new facilities will also be open to those officers who are obliged to retire on the ground either of age or of ill-health before they have been able to give thirty years' service. As I have mentioned, the second thing done by the draft Regulations is to extend the existing arrangements for the allocation of police pensions to dependants. The present police pensions scheme includes provision both for widows' pensions and for children's allowances, but an officer who wishes to supplement these can allocate a part of his pension to provide an additional pension payable after his death to his widow or other dependant.

At present, however, under those arrangements an allocation can be made only at the time of the officer's retirement. The draft Regulations provide, however, that in future an officer will be able to give notice of his intention to allocate once he has completed twenty-five years' service and is in that way qualified for pension. The effect will be that an officer who wishes to continue serving after he has qualified for pension will be able to provide for a dependant during his final years of service after twenty-five years, as well as after his ultimate retirement. It is a fine point but I hope it is clear.

In conclusion, I should mention that these recommendations, made by the Police Council for Great Britain, were the outcome of lengthy discussions, at the end of which the Council reached unanimous agreement. In giving effect to the draft Regulations the House will be approving Regulations which improve the facilities provided by the police pensions scheme for officers and their dependants, and for that reason I commend them to the House.

7.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Greenwood Mr Anthony Greenwood , Rossendale

I welcome the Regulations which the Under-Secretary of State has presented to the House. As he has said, they were framed after lengthy discussion on the Police Council. All of us welcome the Regulations if they do something to improve police conditions and in that way help recruiting to the police and prevent the understaffing which still exists in many parts of the country.

I would like to get this point clear. As I understand, the new Regulations introduce the practice of commutation and also extend the practice of allocating a pension. At present, it is unsatisfactory that there is no provision for the payment of a lump sum and that it is purely a question of a yearly pension. It is much better that in future officers retiring with a maximum of pension, based on thirty years' service or more, should have the option of surrendering one-sixth of that pension in return for a lump sum. It is good, too, that there should be special provision for men who retire on grounds of age or ill-health before the thirty years have expired.

At the same time, there are, of course, differences of opinion about commutation. I understand that some local authorities have had slight doubts about the introduction of this principle but, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, the Regulations merely extend to the police a system which is already applied to many branches of the public service and also, I think it is true to say, is applied to the Armed Forces, to which he did not refer.

Therefore, the introduction of commutation is not a very revolutionary step. If I have any criticism of it, it is that it might have been better to make commutation possible in the case of retirements after twenty-five years' service, instead of insisting on the thirty years' service, except in the special cases to which the Regulations refer. That is something which would have been welcomed by the staff side of the Police Council.

Whatever reservations one has, there is no doubt that the scheme will prove useful. We ought to bear in mind that the police are in a special position. Many have to live in police houses and all of them have to live in the neighbourhood of their work. When the time comes for them to retire, many will wish to move from the district, and many will have to move from police houses. They are then faced with the problem of finding new accommodation. The fact that they can commute part of their pension to provide themselves with a lump sum to assist them in buying a house will be of great help to them.

There are difficulties and criticisms about commutation and it has not always been an unqualified success. One must hope that this will be a system which will be operated by the police with the wisdom for which they are renowned.

I have no reservations whatever about the Regulations dealing with allocation. Under the existing arrangements, a police officer can on his retirement surrender up to one-third of his pension to provide a pension payable after his death to his widow or some other dependant whom he has nominated. As I understand, the new Regulations will allow an officer who continues to serve after he has qualified for pension to provide similar cover for a dependant during his final years of service.

I doubt whether that will be of very much use in the case of widows, because of the improved widows' pensions which have resulted from the increased contributions from 5 per cent. to 6¼ per cent. However, even though it will not be used a great deal in those cases, it will be extremely useful in other ways. For example, it will enable a police officer to make additional supplementary provision for his widow and to make special provision for somebody other than his widow, for instance, a disabled sister or some other relative. It will also enable officers who opted out of the improved widows' pension scheme of 1956 to make some provision for their widows. I therefore have no reservation about the provisions which deal with the allocation of pensions.

These proposals seem to me to be eminently fair and reasonable. So far as I can see, they involve no additional charge upon public funds. They go a long way towards improving the conditions under which the police work and providing them with greater security, and I hope that the House will give them a warm reception.

7.44 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

As the House well knows by this time, I have been consultant and adviser to the Police Federation for the last three years, and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself doing the job. I also hope that it has been of some profit to the Home Office, too, not perhaps in the way that the Home Office would think was right, because it may have cost it a little money.

These Regulations have been the subject of a great deal of discussion in the Police Council. It is wrong to use the word "negotiation," because pensions and matters concerned with pensions are not negotiable on the Police Council, but are subject to the final authority of this House. The position is that discussion takes place in the Police Council, but that the final decision is that of the Government of the day who bring the matter before the House for approval.

I want to make it clear, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) did, that the staff side of the Police Council, which had the benefit of these very detailed discussions with the official side, agrees with the Regulations, with the exception which my hon. Friend mentioned, namely, the question of the right to commute after twenty-five years instead of after thirty years.

Another matter which I wish to raise is why the date is as late as 14th April. It was at the annual conference of the Police Federation last November that the Home Secretary promised us these Regulations, which were then in a very advanced state, and I cannot believe that it has taken five months to draft five pages of Regulations. We have asked the Home Secretary about this and received one of those non-committal, Departmental, bureaucratic replies which say that it took so long to consult everybody concerned.

I am sorry to say so, but, to use the words which the Colonial Secretary used yesterday, that is simply not true. The consultations with the other bodies concerned could have been completed far more quickly, and there is no reason why the Regulations should have been delayed for all this time. I suspect that the Government wanted to delay the introduction of the Regulations until the new financial year, so that nothing came into the present financial year.

If it was not that, I cannot imagine what it could be, because every day that the introduction of these Regulations is delayed, someone else retires from the public service, which means that he cannot benefit from being able to commute or allocate. As my hon. Friend has said, it costs the Government nothing. This is something which the police service itself gives up in order to get something else back.

I am especially glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) is present, because it ought to be said that it was the working party which he set up in 1951 whose Report led to the improvement in the widows' position and which has now led directly to these Regulations. I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will not mind my saying that my right hon. Friend has a very high reputation among the rank and file of the police service for the consistent help and encouragement which he gave, not merely by his attitude, but also because he devised the negotiating machinery through which a great deal of this work now takes place. I am very glad indeed that he is here tonight to see the consummation of the Report of the Committee which he launched some seven years ago.

This is a modest improvement in the conditions of the police service for which the police themselves will be paying. That ought to be made quite clear. As my hon. Friend has said, there is no charge on public funds. I found a strong suspicion among the rank and file of the police service originally about the introduction of this scheme. As my hon. Friend said, there was a feeling that commutation was a dangerous matter. I never shared that view, because of my experience in the Civil Service and because I had seen it operated in the Armed Forces.

I have always thought that to be able to commute a pension was very desirable. That is especially so in the police service where so many men live in tied cottages which they have to leave when they leave the Service. It helps if they can have a lump sum which they can use as the deposit for buying a house when they have to move and find themselves a new job. Therefore, it is clearly desirable for them to be able to commute their pension.

I am very glad that the Regulations contain provision for men who are injured on duty and who have to retire before they have completed twenty-five or thirty years' service. One of the most distressing features of the police service is that of young men, full of energy, vitality and vigour, who find their career over and themselves disfigured or crippled, or in some other way rendered physically handicapped through the action of some thug or bandit on our streets.

I have known one or two very distressing cases in the three years I have been associated with the police service. This is a feature of police life which I do not think ought to be overlooked. Any day, any member of the service who goes out on the streets may come face to face with an armed robber or with an irresponsible boy armed with a flick-knife, and may find himself in physical danger which may result in severe incapacity. In my view, the pensions Regulations that exist do no more than recognise the especial hardships of a policeman's career.

At a time like this, when the police service itself is feeling a little under the weather because of recent events, I think it is desirable that the House of Commons should recognise the value of the services which these men are performing. I know from my own close contact with the police service that they have taken the recent publicity attached to the service very hardly indeed. Ninety-nine per cent. of the men in the police service are first-class men, and I have been proud to be associated with them.

They share with everybody else, and perhaps more keenly than anybody else, the desire that if there are any people in the police service who do not match up to the standards of integrity which we demand, they should be weeded out. There is no doubt that what has happened has had an effect on their morale, and they may feel that perhaps everybody is looking at them with suspicion. From my own contact with them, I say that they are men of the highest integrity and people to whom I would give my confidence on every possible occasion.

I am very glad indeed that these Regulations have been introduced. I think they will help the policeman in his difficult job, and I hope that the House will agree to them.

7.52 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) for his kindly reference to myself. May I say that I am glad to know that the recollection of the police forces of myself are as pleasant as my own recollections of my association with them?

I was once standing in a somewhat dishevelled condition in Reading market place, after I had reached Reading by water, when a burly police sergeant came up to me and said, "Sir, if you are who I think you are, I am very pleased to see you". Of course, there might be moments when such a greeting from a police officer would cause the most ominous feelings in one's mind, but I hope it was a symptom of the mutual regard that the police forces and I have for one another.

These Regulations, we are told, have been passed by the Police Council for Great Britain, but, of course—

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

The phrase I used was "recommended by".

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Well, recommended by the Police Council for Great Britain. That body, at the moment, is not known to the law, and that is why we have two Under-Secretaries here to deal with two separate sets of Regulations.

An agreement has been reached that there shall be a Police Council for Great Britain, but the law knows only of the Police Council for England and Wales and the Police Council for Scotland. After the Police Council for Great Britain has agreed to something, in order to get it before this House it has to be formally recommended by the two separate Police Councils. I had regarded the establishment of a Police Council for Great Britain as so great an achievement of unity for this great civilian force that, long before now, it would have been possible for legislative effect to have been given to that arrangement.

I do not want to say any more about it than this: I hope that the two Departments represented here today feel that if they can bring a small Measure before this House to make the Police Council for Great Britain a legal entity they need have no fear that there will be any trouble in getting it through the House. If matters are delayed, trouble sometimes arises which prevents them from being given the legal status which they ought to have.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

As my right hon. Friend is raising this very important point, I should like to put to him the suggestion that if the answer he receives is that all the details have not yet been worked out, he can reply that it would be the simplest matter in the world to produce a general skeleton and not attempt to put in all the details, leaving them to be worked out and revised from time to time as the need becomes apparent.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I do not like dealing with skeletons. It is a grisly sort of business. I would like to see this body given legal flesh and blood. I do not want to get half way and then have another halt before the consummation of what I regard as a very valuable decision by the police forces and authorities.

Following up the last words of my hon. Friend, which I fully endorse, I want to express my sympathy with the forces in the difficult time through which they have been passing, owing to the failure of a very, very small number to live up to the traditions of this great public service.

Can the Joint Under-Secretary put into figures of pounds, shillings and pence the effect which the new Regulations will have, for example, upon a constable with thirty years' service, so that the public can have some idea of the ultimate reward to such a man? I apologise for not having given the hon. and learned Member notice of this question. It is a subject in respect of which he would be quite entitled to say, "I ought to have had notice of this." If he cannot give an answer now, I will put a Question on the Order Paper, so that the details can be made known to the public.

When one talks about commuting one-sixth, we must remember that it all depends upon what the whole is. As a member of another profession which has enjoyed the right of a lump sum for a considerable number of years, I know the great advantage which accrues to people reaching retiring age, especially in these days, when they receive a lump sum. They can then either purchase a house, or pay a deposit upon its purchase, and can live there in the future. One of the difficulties of the administration of the police force is that all too often a man who has been living in a police house has no more chance of getting his own house to live in afterwards than has the man who is turned out of military service.

In my view, the Regulations constitute a great step forward. This possession of a lump sum, with which a man can start his post-service career in a position free from harrassment and worry, is one of the things which will tend to make the police service understand the esteem in which it is generally held by the community. I sincerely welcome these proposals, and I hope, at the same time, that it will not for much longer be necessary to have two sets of regulations to deal with one subject, for it is surely a gross waste of ammunition to have to take two shots to kill one bird.

8.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

If I may speak again with the leave of the House I think it might be as well, since I have discussed the matter with my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.

First, I should like to join with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in the tribute that he has paid to the police. There are other occasions—perhaps not frequent enough—when tributes are paid to the police, and it is good to know that they are paid even on less important occasions such as this.

I should also like to join with the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in the tribute that he has paid to his right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman himself will be generous enough to agree with me that we must also acknowledge the work which his successors have done in continuing his own good work—of which these Regulations and previous Regulations are some evidence.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me something which set my mind going very fast on simple arithmetic, but I was saved by a note which tells me that the basic pay of a constable is £645. Therefore, if he retires after twenty-five years and receives 50 per cent. of his retiring pay as pension, he will receive a pension of £320 a year. That will frequently be at the age of about 45. This figure is relevant as a very broad guide, but not as an exact rule in all cases. If he stays for another five years, he will receive two-thirds, which will give him a pension of approximately £430 gross.

It is material to mention the point referred to by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), concerning the total amount which can be covenanted by a police officer by way of commutation and allocation combined. If the hon. Gentleman will refer to the second page of the draft Regulations, he will find a new Regulation 6B. It is rather indirect in drafting, but its effect is to provide that not more than one-third of the pension may be covenanted in these various ways. That is consistent with other schemes in the public service.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East complained of the fact that the Regulations are not to come into operation until 14th April. There are good reasons for that, and I will put them before the House. First, I should like to mention two points arising out of the facts upon which the hon. Member's argument was based. The Regulations were not in an advanced state of preparation in November. The recommendation from the Police Council was dated 26th October.

Furthermore, although the staff side had no observations on the draft Regulations the police authorities and other authorities most certainly had comments to make upon them, and they had to be consulted. Although the Regulations cover only five pages they are a most complicated set of drafting Amendments.

If the hon. Member had had to do the amount of study which I have had to do before being prepared to speak to the House about them I think that he would agree that they form rather a jigsaw puzzle.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

If that is so, I am astonished by his comment—because they are a very complicated set of drafting Amendments, and I do not think that it was too bad an effort that between 26th October and 11th March—with Christmas intervening—these Regulations were drafted, exchanged between the various authorities, re-amended, sent to the Government printers, and laid before both Houses. Bearing in mind the rather full parliamentary timetable it is not too bad an effort, that, having been laid on 11th March, they are to come into operation on 14th April.

I can assure the hon. Member that there was certainly no intention on the part of the Government to delay them until we reached the new financial year, or for any similar kind of purpose. If that had been the object I should have thought that we would have made them come into force on 1st April instead of 14th April.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

One of our complaints is that they were promised for 1st April and were not introduced on that date. I have been very closely concerned with these Regulations for the past twelve months, in which time possible amendments to them have been worked out. If the hon. and learned Member is telling me that Parliamentary draftsmen cannot produce such Regulations in less than four months, I wonder how they ever manage to draft Finance Bills.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

In the first place, this is not a job for Parliamentary draftsmen; it is done by Departmental draftsmen.

As to the alleged promise, I am advised that when the question of the date of operation was being discussed a hope was expressed that it might be possible to make it 1st April, but a warning was given that that might be very difficult, as it turned out to be. At any rate, all concerned have done their best, and I do not think that very much hardship will have arisen through the very slight delay.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East felt that the right to commute should arise, as the right of allocation has done in the past, after twenty-five years, instead of thirty years as provided in the Regulations. In considering this question my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the other police authorities represented on the Police Council felt bound to bear in mind the very heavy wastage of officers who leave the police force before they have completed thirty years' service. They felt it necessary to avoid taking any action which would increase the risk of more men retiring before they had completed thirty years' service.

I understand that the representatives of the serving officers did not suggest that a lump sum should become part of every retiring award, but they specifically asked that individual officers should have the option of surrendering part of their pension in return for a lump sum. Since the proposed facilities were to be optional, my right hon. Friend and the other police authorities considered it reasonable to take the opportunity of providing an inducement to officers to continue to serve after completing the minimum period of twenty-five years for pension, but I should stress that special provision has been made for officers who are required to retire on grounds of age or ill-health. They will be able to take advantage of the commutation provisions even before their thirty years have expired.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends for raising these points, which have helped me to clarify the position, and I hope that the Regulations will be unanimously and, indeed, enthusiastically approved.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

The hon. and learned Gentleman did not answer my question about the possibility of making the Police Council for Great Britain a legal entity. May I ask him to check my mental arithmetic on the figures which he gave? I understand that a police constable retiring at the end of thirty years' service has a salary of £645—

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

That is an easy number to deal with. If I get to £650, I shall have to deal in amounts of 6s. 8d., and I am not a solicitor.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

That may be so, but it happens to be the right sum.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

All right, there is only a "fiver" in it.

Two-thirds of £645 is £430. I understand that the total of commutations must not exceed one-third of the pension. One-third of £430 is £143 6s. 8d.—one is bound to get to that 6s. 8d. eventually. I understand that a certain number of years' purchase of that £143 6s. 8d. can be paid in one form or another of commutation. What, approximately, is the lump sum that such an officer would get? It is a calculation based on the £143 6s. 8d.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

The right hon. Gentleman's arithmetic has been right, except that there was one false hypothesis—I do not know whether that is the right arithmetical expression. The right hon. Gentleman assumed that under the Regulations it was possible for commutation alone to account for one-third of the total retirement pension. In fact, that is not possible; it is only one-sixth. The one-third refers to the total amount which may go in commutation and allocation combined. Therefore, the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's sum is obtained by dividing £430 by six, which I could easily do sitting down but which I am not going to start to do standing up.

There are two reasons why I have not dealt with the question of the Police Council. One is because, quite candidly, I am not prepared to do so in a discussion on these Regulations and the other is, with respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because I do not wish to incur your displeasure.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

May I be allowed to say that the maximum pay of a police constable is not £645 or £650, but £660.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

I was advised that the figure I quoted was the basic pay figure. It may be that there are other increments of which the hon. Gentleman is aware.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,That the Draft Police Pensions (No. 2) Regulations, 1958, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th March, be approved.

Police Pensions (Scotland) (No. 2) Regulations, 1958 [copy laid before the House, 12th March], approved.—[Mr. N. Macpherson.]