I beg to move,
That the Police Pensions (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1964, a draft of which was laid before this House on 18th June, be approved.
These Regulations contain wholly desirable amendments to the Police Pensions Regulations, 1962, and they fall into three main categories which I will describe in turn. To the best of my knowledge, there is no controversy about the desirability of doing all the things that the new Regulations will do. The only controversy is not about anything that is in them, but about something that is not in them, and which the Police Federation would like to be in them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I see that I am giving a completely accurate account of the situation.
Because everything in them is desirable in itself, I have not felt able any longer to delay bringing in these new Regulations in the hope that, quite soon, agreement might be reached on the point that lies outside them. Discussions on that point have already been going on within the Police Council for Great Britain for three years, and I do not think it right to delay any longer the grant of a lump sum to the widow of a policeman who loses his life through a criminal assault. These, surely, are the people we most want to help, and I cannot agree that the giving of help to them should be held up any longer.
I am referring now to Regulations 8 and 10, which provide for the payment of a lump sum to the widow or dependants of a policeman who dies after 1st August next from injury received from an attack that is likely to cause death. Regulations 7, 9, 11 and 12 contain consequential Amendments.
I see that the Police Federation has circulated a paper to all Members of Parliament in which it says that it is opposed to a Regulation that discriminates between the widows of policemen who lose their lives at the hands of a dangerous criminal and the widows of policemen who lose their lives, for example, by falling from the roof of a building whilst attempting to arrest a criminal.
In fact, the Police Pensions Regulations have for many years differentiated between these two classes of widow—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The widow whose husband has been killed as the result of an attack has, ever since 1953, been entitled, under the Regulations, to more favourable pension rights than the widow of a policeman who dies in the execution of his duty but not as a result of an attack. I have looked up the papers, and can find no trace of the Police Federation having opposed the provision in 1953 of different pension arrangements for these two classes of widows.
In the Regulations that I am asking the House to approve, the Government, therefore, are not introducing a differentiation for the first time. It is a fact that these two classes of case have long been differentiated in respect of pensions, and with the assent of the Federation. I think that there has always been among the public a specially deep sympathy for the widow and children of a policeman who has lost his life through a murderous attack upon him in the course of his duty.
The policeman, more than anyone else in civil life, is vulnerable to this terrible danger. He faces it unarmed, and with great courage, in the course of his very special job of protecting the public, and I have no doubt that it was for this reason that, in 1953, special pension arrangements were made in favour of the widow of a policeman who dies as the result of an attack.
About three years ago a proposal was discussed in the Police Council that the Regulations ought to provide for the payment of a lump sum in addition to pension for the widows of policemen who are killed on duty, or who, while on duty, receive injuries from which they die. For three years discussions have gone on in a sincere endeavour to reach agreement on the precise circumstances in which the payment should be made—that is, whether the payment should be made to the widows of the policemen who are murdered, or also to the widows of policemen who are not attacked but meet with their death while on duty.
These discussions started way back before my time as Home Secretary—in my predecessor's time—and a little time ago I reluctantly came to the conclusion that there was no prospect of agreement in the Police Council on this particular point. My statutory duty is to consult the Police Council, but the law does not say that I shall be directed by the Police Council and that I am to do nothing if the Council cannot reach any agreement.
What I am doing, therefore, is to bring forward the Regulations which will give greatly needed help to the widow and family of a policeman who is murdered on duty—and I expect that we can all think of some of those utterly tragic cases, and I am sure that these are the cases which the whole country most wants to see helped.
I am most ready to consider the whole question of other policemen's widows in respect of a pension and lump-sum payment to be further pursued in the context of a review of all the provisions of the existing police pensions arrangements, against the background of the pensions arrangements of other Services which provide lump-sum payments in addition to a pension.
I completely understand the desire of the Police Federation that other police widows should be provided with a lump sum in addition to a special pension, but I have to recognise, and the Government and the House have to recognise, that these difficulties and tragedies are faced not only by police widows, but by the widows of other men in various public services who face danger and death in carrying out their duties. But the policeman is the one man who is expected to confront a dangerous criminal. This is what singles out his job from all others in civil life.
It is not easy to distinguish the policeman's job in other respects from the jobs of other public servants who risk fatal injury through fire or other hazards which they may meet in doing their job. The police widow whose husband is murdered has been, as I say, recognised as a special case for pension purposes for many years, but it is not easy to see why the widow of a policeman who dies in doing his duty, not as a result of a murderous attack, should be more favourably treated by the authorities who employ him than, for example, the widow of a fireman who is killed in a fire.
Yet this is the result which Parliament would produce if it did what the Police Federation is now urging it to do. My belief, on the contrary, is that we ought to delay no longer in doing our duty by the widow of a policeman who is murderously attacked and that then the whole system of the police pension arrangements should be made the subject of a comprehensive review which I want to initiate against the background of the pension arrangements of other services.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way? He talks of doing this in a comprehensive review. Why has he the impudence to bring that before the House now when he knows that feelings are running very high? Why not do this now? What is all this rubbish about certain sections of the community? Why does the right hon. Gentleman not do this now for the police, for whom he is responsible, and do it properly?
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should say that it is impudence on my part to bring forward proposals which will give as a right to the widow of a policeman who has been murdered a lump-sum payment by way of compensation. That seems to be not an impudent action, but a wholly just action.
I want to see this review taken in hand constructively and sympathetically. I hope that we shall receive the help of all the staff associations concerned, covering all ranks of the police forces, in bringing it through to a satisfactory and successful conclusion.
It has been suggested that, although the widow of a murdered policeman should receive a lump sum as of right, a discretionary power should be given to a police authority to make a payment outside that category if it thinks the circumstances justify it. But, if we are to avoid injustice between one case and another, where the circumstances are similar, it must be for Parliament to define the circumstances which justify a lump sum payment.
I want to understand these Regulations. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Police Federation did not mention this in 1953, but it certainly did before the Royal Commission, as he knows. As I understand the Regulations now, although they do not give a police authority a power or discretion to make a supplementary grant or a grant in special circumstances, they do give a police authority power to withhold a grant if it comes to the conclusion that the attack which the policeman suffered while on duty, though deliberately made, was not of a nature normally calculated to cause death. I appreciate that this is in the Regulations of 1962, but is it not a quite astonishing qualification to preserve in the light of present circumstances?
The words which are used in these Regulations are exactly the words which have been in use for pension purposes ever since 1953, with the assent at the time of the Police Federation. Perhaps I may be allowed to complete my speech, Mr. Speaker, and then other hon. Members may have the opportunity to catch your eye.
I was saying that, if we are to avoid injustice between one case and another, where the circumstances are similar, it must be for Parliament to define the circumstances which justify a lump-sum payment. Discretionary powers in the hands of police authorities are applicable to the needs of the particular individual—indeed, Regulation 11 of the principal Regulations provides for that—but they are not applicable to the circumstances of the husband's death.
It is also argued that, because very few policemen die in the execution of their duty other than those who are murdered, the cost would be so small that it would be easy to make the extension. But it is not the cost which is the issue here. It is the anomalies which would be created as between one police widow and another and as between the police and other services.
I shall when I have finished what I am just about to say.
On the Police Federation's proposal, the widow of a policeman who was killed in a car crash when chasing and trying to arrest a criminal would receive a substantial lump sum. The widow of a policeman who was killed in a car crash on duty racing in response to a 999 call would not receive that payment. This would not seem a just distinction.
Does not the Home Secretary realise that he is drawing a wholly artificial distinction between the death of a policeman who is attacked while on duty and the death of a policeman who dies subsequently?
I am not drawing any distinction between a policeman who dies during an attack and a policeman who dies after an attack. I am drawing a distinction between the policeman who dies as a result of an attack and the policeman who has not been attacked. It is far from being an artificial differentiation, and it is a differentiation which has existed in the pensions Regulations, approved by this House, and with the original assent of the Federation, for the past 10 years.
Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to help us by saying why he has not taken as the basic principle the one which applies in the Armed Forces: that is, if a soldier is on duty and incurs a disability by injury or effect on his health, if it arises in the course of service or is aggravated by the service, he is given a pension? Why does that not apply to the police service?
There is a claim to pension. There is no question about there being a claim to pension. The widow of the policeman who dies in the exercise of his duty receives specially favourable pension terms and still more favourable pension terms if her husband was murdered in the execution of his duty. That is in the Regulations which have been approved by Parliament and which have operated for the past 10 years.
I spoke of anomalies within the police service. There would be anomalies in other Services. I have already mentioned the case of the fire service. It is extremely difficult to argue that the widow of a policeman who has not been murdered on duty but has died in the execution of his duty should be more favourably treated as regards lump sum compensation than the widow of a fireman who dies during the course of his extremely dangerous duties in dealing with fires.
A great deal of ironing out is needed if we are to get all this right, and that is why I want to put in hand a comprehensive review of the entire police pensions system which will take up the question of all types of police widow. In that we can look yet again and consider whether we can find better definitions which will avoid the sort of difficulties and anomalies which I have pointed out.
The right hon. Gentleman said that for three years this matter has been under discussion. Will he please explain why it is that after three years he brings these half-baked proposals before us on a non-party basis but aggravates everybody, and why we have not had a comprehensive review? This is what I want to know.
Because a number of points of disagreement have been thrown up apart from this, I have initiated the proposal that we should have a comprehensive review. I greatly hope that there will be a response to that from the various associations concerned, so that we can carry it out. I see no reason why, with cooperation, that should not be completed so that new regulations on which agreement is reached can be brought in next year. But I am asking the House to approve—
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the close definition of the Police Council for extending these projected Regulations is death while in the course of attempting to make an arrest as distinct from an attack on the person carrying out an arrest? To use the anomaly to which he referred, which, with great respect, I do not think takes us very far, does he think that a car going to answer a 999 call could constitute endeavouring to make an arrest? For all that the man in the car knows, there would be nobody to arrest at the other end.
My point is that there is no suggestion that in answering a 999 call a policeman is endeavouring to make an arrest. But if he is going to apprehend someone on an objective crime, he is endeavouring to make an arrest.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. But I find it extremely difficult to see why the widow of one of those men should receive more than £2,000 and the widow of the other should receive nothing. That is what would follow if we were to adopt the Police Federation's present definition.
I see no reason why, with co-operation, we could not complete this review reasonably quickly, but I am asking the House to approve these Regulations without further delay so that, if a policeman is murdered, his wife and children can receive compensation as of right without holding up this act of justice any longer, as the Police Federation is urging me to do, until other matters are settled.
The House will wish me to explain the Regulations themselves. Regulation 8 inserts a new Regulation into the principal Regulations entitling a widow of a policeman who dies as the result of being attacked to a special rate of pension, as at present, and to a gratuity of the amount of twice the maximum annual rate of pay of a man constable. On present rates, this would amount to something over £2,000.
I had better complete this explanation of the Regulations.
Regulation 7 preserves the entitlement to a special pension of a widow whose husband dies as the result of an injury on duty. Regulation 10 inserts a new Regulation providing for the payment of a gratuity, of the same amount as would have been payable to a widow, to a child of a policeman or of a policewoman who dies as the result of an attack in the case where a policeman leaves no widow or a policewoman was the child's only surviving parent. If there is more than one child in the family entitled to the gratuity, the gratuity is to be shared equally between the children. There are consequential amendments in Regulations 9, 11 and 12.
I should refer also to the other and, to the best of my belief, wholly uncontroversial Regulations. Regulations 1 and 13 to 16 relate to the pension arrangements for inspectors of constabulary and officers in some form of central service, such as the Police Research and Planning Branch of the Home Office. The 1962 Regulations are applied to these officers in a manner similar to the way in which they are already applied to policemen temporarily engaged under the control of the Secretary of State in overseas service.
Regulation 15 provides that these officers shall be treated for pension purposes as members of a police force, and the effect of Regulation 16 is that the Regulations shall apply to them as if the Secretary of State were their police authority. This is an important step in the development of the service in the directions recommended by the Royal Commission. It formalises the arrangements for assigning serving police officers to carry out certain services that are better done centrally or collectively than by individual forces. It also completes the process of making it easier for chief officers of police to become inspectors of constabulary by providing that newly appointed inspectors will remain under the police pension code. There is no disagreement about these proposals. They are accepted by the local authority associations and by the service associations.
Regulation 4 provides revised arrangements for commuting part of a policeman's pension for a lump sum and Regulations 2, 3 and 6 contain consequential amendments. The important point here is that a policeman will no longer be required to satisfy the police authority of his good health if he wishes to commute part of his pension. Also, the part of the pension which he may commute is increased from one-sixth to one-quarter. These are changes for which there has been considerable demand. I am extremely glad to help in meeting that demand.
It is particularly valuable because the police pensions code as it stands does not provide for the automatic payment of a lump sum on retirement, whereas police officers have a special need for a lump sum payment. Many of them, especially in county forces, live in police houses while they are serving and, on retirement, they need to buy houses of their own. The requirement that there should be a special medical examination at the end of a man's service before he can commute any part of his pension has meant that up to now he could not make plans for house purchase in advance.
Regulation 5 sets out the current provisions incorporating amendments as to allocation of part of a pension. The amendments enable a serving policeman who has already allocated a portion of his pension in favour of a dependant to increase his allocation, and, if that dependant dies, to allocate a portion in favour of some other dependant.
To sum up, what we are proposing to do in these Regulations is, so far as I am aware, universally agreed in itself. The Police Federation has informed Members of Parliament that it objects to the Regulations not because of anything which is in them, but because of something which is not in them. This has been discussed in the Police Council over a period of three years, and the reason why I have felt it necessary, felt it right, to bring these Regulations forward now is that it seemed wholly wrong that if a policeman should be murdered on duty now we would not be able to give his widow, as of right, a lump-sum payment simply because these Regulations had been delayed through lack of agreement.
I therefore suggest to the House that we should agree these Regulations tonight, and then, if we can have the co-operation of all concerned, go forward with a general and comprehensive review of all police pension arrangements.
I should like to make it clear at the outset that although I speak from this Box I do not speak this evening for the Labour Party. It so happens that, as most hon. Gentlemen know, I have been consultant to the Police Federation now for many years—indeed, through practically the whole period in which the negotiating machinery has existed, so I therefore think that I may claim to have a unique knowledge of the facts which led up to this controversy tonight. I should like to put those facts as objectively as I can before the House and leave the House to make up its own mind as to the conclusions to be drawn from them.
I must, first, come to the point which the Home Secretary made that in 1953 certain anomalies were created because some pensions were discretionary and some were not and, therefore, were not negotiated. This ignores the fundamental point, and that is that there was no negotiating machinery in 1953 and there were no means at all of reaching the point of view of the service. I do not want to "raise the temperature" in any way, but I am bound to say that I think that many of the things done before 1954 would not have been done if negotiating machinery had existed at that time, and I say to the Home Secretary that he really has no ground to stand on if he seeks to represent the absence of the negotiating machinery as justification for an anomaly against which he says the Police Federation did not protest at that particular time.
This problem arose in 1961, and it arose simultaneously in the Federation and in the House of Commons. I have always, as far as I could, kept these problems away from the House of Commons. I have felt that as long as negotiating machinery existed they should be thrashed out there, among those intimately concerned, because a forum of this sort here, with all due respect to all right hon. and hon. Members, is not the best place to thrash out these difficult and intricate issues. I have no alternative tonight, however, because the Home Secretary has, for the first time in the history of the negotiating machinery, brought to the House of Commons Regulations not agreed by the Police Council. This is a very serious thing to do. I think the Home Secretary recognises that to take upon himself to lay Regulations which have not the assent of both sides of the Police Council is bound to lead, as in this case it is leading, to a very considerable feeling of dissatisfaction, as I think every hon. Member is aware.
What I pressed privately on more than one Minister—I was not anxious for this to go through—was that they should withdraw this offending Regulation, relay all the parts that are agreed, but not endeavour to force through this Regulation which is not agreed. I was very surprised—I must say this to the Home Secretary—when he put all of these Regulations, all of which have been agreed except one, before the House without separating off this one. He can do it—he is entitled to do it—but I would normally have expected him to place them separately. I will not ascribe any motives. I merely say that I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not do that on this occasion.
This matter was raised in 1961, when the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) asked the then Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department when the Home Office would insure police officers against being killed on duty. The Under-Secretary said that he thought not, that the general arrangements for pensions were satisfactory and that there was no need to extend them in this way. The hon. Member then asked the Under-Secretary whether he would not review the position. The Under-Secretary said that he did not think there was any need to. This was all on 22nd June, 1961. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones), in whose constituency two police officers had recently been shot and killed, said that so far from there being any general satisfaction there was very intense dissatisfaction in his constituency about the compensation payment.
The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West gave notice that he would raise the matter on the Adjournment, and got in touch with me. I asked him not to do so. I said that the negotiating machinery was there for the purpose. I have my letter here. I said, "Let us try to get rid of this without troubling the House of Commons with it." At my request, the hon. Member agreed not to raise the matter on the Adjournment so that we could negotiate about it.
I think that the whole House will be astonished that it has taken three years to try to reach a conclusion on a matter of this sort. I cannot take the House through the whole of the correspondence. I merely show the House my file containing three years' work in connection with something which has affected, during the last 20 years, about 15 members of the police service. I am astonished that we should spend so much time and labour and have so many working parties and so many meetings of the Police Council trying to get a tiny issue like this settled. I do not think that it is good enough for the Home Secretary to come forward at the very last moment and say "All right. Maybe there is something that ought to be looked at. Let us have a comprehensive review." I wonder what all this has been about. There is no more that anybody can say on this issue—
The hon. Gentleman is putting forward a very plausible case and has a great deal of sympathy on both sides. He says that the Regulation was laid some time ago and that this dissatisfaction has been going on for some considerable time. He says that there is no political motive at all in any arrangements that have been going on. We would all accept that. But what some of us find rather hard to understand is why we received telegrams yesterday, at such short notice, and today, without notice, were approached by a number of our friends in the service; why we were not seen, for instance, several days ago, at the weekend, when we were in our constituencies, or in the period between when the Regulations were laid and the debate tonight, so that we could have had a chance of seeing what the problem is and understanding it.
I do not think that this is an important point but the answer is, simply, as I know all the events that have taken place, that the Regulations were laid so quickly. The Federation has had to act extremely quickly. It has not had the time to act in the leisurely way in which it would otherwise have done. No one knew until last Thursday that the Regulations would be considered today. That is the whole reason for it. There is nothing more sinister behind it than that.
I think that it is a measure of the feeling in the service that, when the Joint Central Committee of the Federation informed its members of this and suggested that they should approach hon. Members about it and put them in the picture, there was this remarkable response. It shows that there is very real feeling about this matter.
Now I come to the points of substance. I find it difficult to know which one to take out of the many. But probably the central point is the claim that we should create anomalies if we did what is suggested by the Federation. The simple answer to that is that the Home Secretary himself, in his own Regulation, is creating anomalies. It seeks to differentiate between men killed in one circumstance and men killed in another.
I say to hon. Members that this is a result of the Federation being conciliatory. The original claim that it put in would have created no anomalies because it provided that every man killed on duty would get a gratuity. Because resistance was met to that proposal, because it was argued that firemen and others are in a similar position, the Federation narrowed its claim. It said, "If it is your feeling that firemen are also put in circumstances in which they may lose their lives, we will narrow our claim to those policemen who are killed whilst making an arrest because that is something peculiar to police duty. Only a policemen is involved in making an arrest."
Thus, to try to reach agreement the Federation—some may even say that it was weak about it—decided to cut out of the category the case of the policeman who, for instance, might dive into a canal to save a child and be drowned himself, or the officer on point duty knocked down and killed.
The Home Secretary is not entitled to say that, because we have been driven back into narrowing the ground ourselves and suggesting that this should be limited to men making an arrest, anomalies would be created by the Federation. The anomalies were being created from the moment that the Home Office—and the Home Office is the nigger in the woodpile here—refused to entertain a general claim that the widow of any man killed on duty should be give a gratuity. I cannot stress that too strongly.
Having reached that point, the official side said that we must limit this to men attacked while making an arrest. This is where the anomalies come in, as every hon. Member circulated with the form will see. A very clear anomaly arises when two men are in hot pursuit of a wanted man and one is shot and killed while the other is accidentally killed while attempting to affect the arrest. The widow of the officer who is shot will get a gratuity, while the widow of the officer accidentally killed in pursuit of the same arrest will not get a gratuity.
The Home Secretary says he does not propose to deny to widows any longer such benefit as he feels able to concede. I can give him the answer. For 50 years there has never been a gratuity. Whenever a man has been killed in these circumstances, the police have made a collection among themselves and have given the sum collected to the widow. They are prepared to go on doing that rather than have the men divided up in this way.
The answer is that no widow would be worse off if the right hon. Gentleman refused to proceed with the Regulations. I am speaking with full authority in saying that, for that is the feeling that exists among the men. They are ready to draw the distinction between those who go out after an arrest and get killed and those who are not. They are not ready to draw a distinction between men killed as the result of an attack upon their persons and those killed by other circumstances, such as falling through a roof during a chase or another accident when attempting to make an arrest.
I now come to the question of discretion. Again, in an attempt to reach agreement—and I promise the House that all the concessions here came from the staff side—the Federation said to the Home Office and the official side, "Make it mandatory in the case of the man who is killed; make it obligatory in that case so that you must pay it automatically". The official side was ready to do that. The Federation went on, "But if you feel some qualms about it in the case of the man killed when in hot pursuit, give discretion to the police authority to decide". This was an attempt to make a concession to the official side. The Home Secretary now turns it against the men and says that this in itself will create anomalies.
I put this as quietly as I can: every time the police service has retreated, that retreat has been used as an opportunity for the Home Office to advance one more step and prove that a proposal is even more anomalous. This has caused deep feeling, for this matter has been carefully followed throughout the service.
Police authorities already have laid upon them the responsibility of giving discretionary pensions. I do not know whether the Home Secretary has been briefed on this, but I promise him that Regulation 12 of the Police Regulations provides that in certain circumstances the police authority must decide whether to award a special pension. If police authorities can be entrusted with the responsibility of deciding whether a special pension should be given in discretionary circumstances to be considered by themselves, why should they not be given the equal responsibility of deciding whether a gratuity is properly due?
No one has any objection to the hon. Gentleman's interest in the Police Federation. We have all been bombarded with telegrams today. The hon. Gentleman said that the Police Federation had no knowledge of this matter until last Thursday. In fact, the Regulations were tabled on 18th June.
The hon. Gentleman may have a point; I do not know. I am trying to put the facts before the House as honestly as I can. I am trying to be objective; I do not think that I am wholly succeeding, but I am trying to be honest about the way I put the facts.
I come now to another material point, and I beg hon. Gentlemen to note it. During the course of the long and tortuous negotiations on this issue a working party was set up. It was made up of representatives from both sides. The working party made four recommendations which were considered by the Police Council on 25th July, 1963. The working party recommended that the payment of a lump sum in addition to a widow's special pension should be obligatory whenever a member of a force had died as a result of an attack upon his person, and that police authorities should also be given the discretionary power to award such a lump sum whenever a member of a force, though not attacked, had died as the result of injuries sustained because he exposed himself to special risk in attempting to make an arrest.
These were recommendations of a working party set up by both sides of the Council. I must say that the representative of the Association of Municipal Corporations dissented from the recommendation, but not on those grounds, It was because of some other grounds with which I will not weary the House now. We were faced with the position in which the working party with one dissentient for another reason was ready to accept this discretionary power to be given, and it would have given it had it not been for the Home Office. When it came before the full Council, it was clear that it was the Home Office representatives who were denying the opportunity—as they have done so consistently, I regret to inform the House—of reaching agreement on this issue.
If a working party is set up—and anybody who has been concerned with pay negotiations knows this—and it comes forward with a recommendation, the odds are very good that that joint recommendation will be acceptable by the larger body. In this case, for very unusual reasons, it was turned down.
Because it was impossible to get agreement—in my view, because the Home Office was being particularly obdurate and obscurantist—another working party was set up and the matter was referred back because the staff side would not agree to differentiations. This working party reported on 17th July. It repeated the same recommendations, and added this note in paragraph 7:
The official side members
that is, the Home Office plus local authorities—
do not necessarily all dissent from the general trend of these arguments"—
that is a very negative way of putting the positive fact that many members of the official side were in favour of doing what the House has now been asked by the Police Federation to do—
though the A.M.C. representative has not felt able to modify his previous objections to all the recommendations"—
I ask the House to note these words—
and the representative of the Home Office considers that recommendation (b)—
the discretionary recommendation—
should now be abandoned for the reasons advanced at the meeting of the Council.
There is only one conclusion to be drawn from that, and that is that if only the official side had been willing in the first place to concede a lump-sum payment to the widow of a man killed on duty there would have been none of this difficulty. It is negligible in amount. During the last 20 years 15 policemen have been murdered. There would be an additional sum to be added in respect of those killed on duty, but the sum is trifling. We have been put in this position because the Home Office has gone on pushing and shoving the whole time.
I do not know whether the firemen should be included in this or not. That is not the purpose of this discussion, but it may well be argued that they should, and I would be the last to say that they should not. But that is not the purpose of this discussion. The question before the House is whether the widows of policemen who are killed on duty should be given a special gratuity. This is the only question before the House, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that he could withdraw these Regulations, and I make one last appeal to him to do so. He could relay them tomorrow.
There need be no delay. There will be no cost in this. Thank goodness, there has not been a case of this sort for two years. This is a nugatory matter, and I cannot accept the right hon. Gentleman's view that we should embark on a comprehensive review of all the Police Pensions Regulations. It will take years to do that. There will be a happy hunting ground for the next five years if we have a comprehensive review of the Regulations.
Why do we have to go through all this to do simple justice to the wives of men who are in an exposed and dangerous position? Whatever my financial, interest, I am glad to say that over the years I have become friends with many of them.
Because of the lateness of the hour, I wish to make only one or two points about these Regulations. When I read them, I wondered why it had taken us until 1964 to recognise the right of the widows of men killed in civil life to receive any kind of lump-sum payment. I do not think that this state of affairs does credit to the nation as a whole. Nevertheless, we have at last got down to doing something.
My right hon. Friend's proposals go at least part of the way to dealing with the problem, but not as far as many of us would like. I have never, in relation to any kind of matter, considered that sympathy should be qualified by a respect for precedent. If the only thing in my right hon. Friend's mind is the fear that we may open up the way to the widows of others in the civil services—in services which protect our lives and property—possibly getting a lump-sum gratuity which they do not get at the moment, I am not frightened to face that issue—and, in fairness, I do not believe that the House would be frightened to face it. If that is the sort of case in respect of which we are to create a precedent by allowing the proposition of the Police Federation, let us risk the precedent and face it as it comes along.
In proposing these Regulations my right hon. Friend said that ipso facto the policeman enrolled in the force was, in the course of his duty, expected to confront a dangerous criminal. I presume that that connotes a certain element in his pay to cover that predictability. But without being too logistic about it, if, by these Regulations, we are recognising that risk by paying a gratuity to the widow of a policeman who dies when he is attacked and, therefore, in that case, accepting the necessity for compensation in respect of the ordinary duty of the officer, how can we say that since the policeman has to take on this kind of duty because of his job his widow is not entitled to compensation if he is killed in the course of making an arrest? The same argument cannot be used to prove two different things.
It would be more consistent to say that because it is part of a policeman's duty to risk his life no compensation can flow to a widow, because, knowing that her husband is a policeman, she should take the rough with the smooth. But since we have allowed the principle of compensation in the case of the policeman who is killed at the point of arrest because of the attack of a criminal, for goodness' sake let us be reasonably generous and fair in implementing it.
My right hon. Friend was good enough to address his mind to the implications of the example he quoted. But I do not think that it was a very substantial example. He also raised the question of the amount of anomaly and confusion, and the rest, that would flow if we opened this gateway widely.
But already implemented and indicated in my right hon. Friend's Regulations is a high degree of two-way thinking. What exactly is an attack? In the case that occurred in Croydon, many years ago—which will be within the recollection of many hon. Members—the young man who was eventually executed might have waved a revolver in various directions and killed two policemen and injured a third. Was that an attack, or was it done in self-protection? Is this to be settled in the High Court, as a matter of definition?
The kind of attack is not specified in the Regulations. Although this may be a minor matter in terms of numbers, it is not a minor matter for the widows. Over the years to come we shall have a number of cases where these matters will be fought out. To be frightened of a little more discretion being given to the police authorities, when they already have such a large amount of discretion under the Regulations, strikes me as being the poorest of all reasons.
My right hon. Friend has referred to the review which he thinks should take place on the whole of this matter. I commend that, because I think that in 1964 it is high time that we should address our minds to proper compensation for those whose husbands protect us in the course of our daily lives. I make no comment on that proposal except to say that I am glad to hear it; but I do not think that it is the same kind of matter that we are considering at the moment.
I do not make any point about this being a de minimis operation. As I said a moment ago, it is not de minimis for the widow. Neither am I frightened of the respective comparisons as between one police authority and another. My experience of these authorities leads me to believe that they will be generous in the matter, and I do not call them to task for being so. I believe that the police forces throughout the country can be assured of the fair treatment which they will receive from their employing authorities.
I make one last request to my right hon. Friend. It is that if he feels that because of all that has gone on he cannot at this moment widen this restrictive definition, which is by no means entirely clear—and this is a human matter for the whole House—he will reconsider what I am sure has been put to him many times before, and again tonight by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), that is, that he will get on with those things that will help the people concerned and do so in co-operation with the Federation, which is willing to wait even after three years if it is able to get something wider than this definition.
I ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider the matter, irrespective of what may be the result of the Division, if we have one, tonight. This is a matter in which I feel that the whole House can show its humanity, whether it be a free vote or a party vote. I feel that we could at least redress some of the omissions in years past.
I do not rise to controvert anything that the hon. Gentleman has said. I agree with him, but I would remind him of the very well-known case of Smith, the motor car killing of a policeman—the motorist being engaged in a felonious business—where the court of assize said that it was murder, where the Court of Criminal Appeal said that it was not and where the House of Lords said that it was. In such a case the police authority could say that it was not the kind of attack which was necessarily likely to result in death and, therefore, the widow would not get a pension.
I could have taken these Regulations apart in many ways, but I will not do so.
I will make this my last point. The question of whether or not it was an attack would still be within the decision of the local police authority and I imagine that in most cases the authority would err on the side of generosity. I hope that it would. Why is it not possible to open the matter a little further and make it a discretion on the part of the police authority?
Tonight is not the first occasion in the history of Police Regulations in regard to widows of policemen where we have had a constant agitation. I remember that when I first came into the House in 1952 the Home Office was approached to assimilate the position of widows of policemen. We had three kinds of policemen's widows. I thought that there was only one kind of policeman's widow, namely, the widow of a policeman. There were three kinds of widows. There were the pre-Oaksey widows, the transitional widows and the post-Oaksey widows. They were all treated differently by the Home Office in regard to those Regulations. After years of agitation and position now is assimilated.
I want to ask the Home Secretary to alter his attitude tonight and to emphasise the grave dissatisfaction that is felt not only in the Police Federation and by members of police forces, but in the minds of the public generally. I can assure the Home Secretary that the attitude of the public is that the policemen who protect them are entitled to be assured that if, as a result of giving that protection, something happens to them, their widows will not be left penniless and their children will not suffer.
The limited scope of these Regulations is a serious matter. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman saying, "Pass them tonight and then I will go into the whole position comprehensively." Only three weeks of effective work remain for this Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman has very little time left to him in which to act. I want him to act immediately, to take the Regulations away tonight and, next week, bring forward a comprehensive set of Regulations. The right hon. Gentleman knows all that he need know about the subject. No new facts or knowledge need be placed before him. Despite the differences which he says exist within the Police Council, there are no such differences from the point of view of the Police Federation. The right hon. Gentleman claims that because of these differences he is introducing a limited provision, but he has the power to introduce a comprehensive set of Regulations.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that intervention, because he has particular knowledge of these matters. His speech tonight was reasonable and fair, one to which no hon. Member could take exception. This is, after all, not a party matter. Hon. Members opposite are equally sympathetic as my hon. Friends on this issue and I hope that the Home Secretary will withdraw the Regulations and introduce, within a few days, an adequate set.
We do not want to wait for a future Parliament to put the matter right, especially since there will not be another Parliament for three or four months—and anything could happen during that time. As the Home Secretary himself said, this is an urgent matter, so why will he not include this other limited section of the police force? We must also consider the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman towards recruitment. Local authorities are anxious to recruit the best element in the community into the police force, a most honourable occupation, but one involving certain risks. I do not want those who are contemplating a career as a policeman to feel that they are exposing their wives and families to unnecessary risks and anxiety.
As a member of a local authority. I must ask the Home Secretary why he cannot trust local police authorities to use their discretion in this matter. Too frequently does the Home Office adopt the attitude of wishing to take away some of the powers of police authorities in deciding many local problems of which they have exclusive knowledge. It is a reflection on the police authorities when the Home Secretary says that we cannot trust them to use their discretion in these matters.
I do not want to say anything more—the case has been very well put by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and by the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole). There is really no difference in any part of the House on this matter. It is only a small job to put this right. "He who gives quickly, gives twice," and I therefore appeal to the Home Secretary—and I am sure that he realises the temper of the House and of the country, and the feeling of the Police Federation—to say, "I have heard what has been said. I realise that whilst I was trying to do something good in this way, what is put forward is only limited in scope. I will take the Regulations back, and do the right thing for men who are a credit to the country."
I am a little reluctant to intervene, because I know that my right hon. Friend approaches the many problems that come before him with considerable honesty and sincerity, and I am quite sure that in placing these Regulations before the House tonight he has done what he thought to be best for all those likely to be affected by them. Nevertheless, there are one or two things that puzzle me.
I want to make it plain, as has been made plain already by those who have so far spoken, that this is not a party issue, but a question of ensuring as best we can that ordinary justice is done to a body of men who have not been too well treated in the past—and who are not, indeed, always very well supported or well treated today by those who should support them.
My right hon. Friend has said that we should pass these Regulations tonight and so enable him to give at least to the widows of those who are actually killed by a direct action in affecting arrest—that is, are murdered—some kind of compensation, and not hold it up; and that thereafter we could have what he called a "comprehensive review." As he has mentioned that other public servants, such as firemen, are affected, presumably such a comprehensive review would have to take into account all the other arrangements made for other public servants—perhaps even members of the Armed Services—and it would be a very long and, indeed, tedious operation. I find it hard to understand, after we have heard that the present negotiations have gone on for three years or thereabouts, why that kind of comprehensive review has not been undertaken already.
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) referred in an intervention to the position in the Armed Forces. I would be the first to agree that the position there is not on all fours with the position in the police force. Nevertheless, those who join either the Armed Forces or the police force do so knowing that there is an element of personal risk involved. If the Armed Forces are involved in, say, a local engagement, the infantry may be ordered to go forward. If a man is killed by an enemy bullet, his widow is given a war pension which is different from the pension she might have got had her husband died by accident or in the ordinary course of his service, but not in war. The man's companion, by his side, might escape the enemy bullets, but fall into a shell hole and break his neck. His widow will get the same war pension as the widow of the man who was shot.
I find it very difficult to distinguish between the man who, when actually making an arrest, is killed by a bullet, a dagger or a cosh, and the man who dies as a result of an accident—falling off a roof, or the like—when attempting to do precisely the same thing—
I thank the hon. Member for that intervention.
I am aware that the official reaction to this kind of thing is that there may be many other cases which might be called to the attention of the Government as deserving of the same treatment as that which we are asking for the police. It is true that we may find firemen saying, "The risks which we face are equal to those faced by the police and it is only right and proper that if we are killed in the execution of our duty our widows should have the same kind of gratuity." If that is so, they are absolutely right. Why should not they have it? If a man dies in the service of the public there is a case for giving a gratuity of a special nature to his widow.
I have great respect for the integrity and intellectual honesty of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I am certain that if he can be persuaded by the House, acting as; a House and not from a party point of view, that a good case has been made out for this payment to the widows of policemen who have been killed, or have died whilst attempting to make an arrest, and that a good case has been made out for accepting the Police Federation's view that it should be left to the decision of the local authorities or whatever bodies are set up whether an award should be made in certain cases, and if he is convinced of the justice of the case, he would be prepared to consider withdrawing the Regulations and re-presenting them in a form acceptable to the House.
I suggest now that to overcome the problem of possibly some widows being left without the compensation offered by these Regulations, the future Regulations, when presented, should be retrospective in effect. In other words, if a man is killed between now and the laying of the fresh Regulations his widow should be entitled to the compensation set out in the present Regulations, with effect from tonight or whatever date it might be decided. I understand the problem facing my right hon. Friend, but I beg him to take account of the very deep feeling on both sides of the House which is dictated only by our desire to see that justice is done to a well-deserving body of men who have served the nation extremely well.
As I listened to the Home Secretarys' speech, my reaction was one of meeting it in the spirit of controversy. That is not the spirit in which I now want to speak. It has become perfectly obvious in the debate that on both sides of the House we desire some reconsideration of the decision which the Home Secretary has reached. I believe that that feeling is as deep in the minds of hon. Members opposite as it is on this side of the House.
This is not only a matter of human feeling. We all have that emotion, but as we have listened to the debate we have become convinced that on rational grounds as well the Home Secretary ought to respond to the appeal which is being made to him to reconsider the Regulations. I can say to the right hon. Gentleman that if he will do that we shall not regard it as a victory for our side. We shall regard it as a victory for human feeling, for common sense and for the attitude of the whole House.
I beg of the right hon. Gentleman, in that spirit, to take the view which is being expressed in the House and agree to the withdrawal of the Regulations.
It is, perhaps, a coincidence, Mr. Speaker, that I happen to be the third Member from Buckinghamshire who has caught your eye, but it will not be a coincidence, I think, that all three of us sing the same tune.
I am one of those who feel very unhappy at the situation in which we have been placed this evening. If we act in accordance with our real feelings about what ought to be done, we shall deny to some widows certain benefits under these Regulations. This we should regret. Nevertheless, I hope that this may be seen—there has been reference already to the absence of a desire to make it a party question—as one of those rather rare occasions when back benchers bring an influence to bear on the Front Bench. It is a matter not of one side bringing an influence to bear on the other, but of back benchers on both sides bringing an influence to bear on the Government Front Bench.
I believe that the vast majority of hon. Members who have been listening to this debate consider that the Regulations draw the line between those who get gratuity in addition to pension and those who do not in the wrong place. No doubt, we could take a long time in debating what would be the wiser line—I mean not a line giving rise to fewer anomalies, but a line drawn in a better place than it is now. The idea of drawing it where death occurs in the course of making an arrest has the merit of not being challenged by the Police Federation. This, to me, does not give it any particular sacrosanct wisdom, but it is a consideration which should carry weight that those who represent the police and, presumably, their widows, should there be any, feel that that is a reasonable place to draw it.
I was sorry that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), the tone of whose speech was, I thought, so fitting for this occasion, marred what he had to say in one respect, by accusing the Home Secretary of himself bringing in anomalies by drawing the line where he has. There would have been many anomalies if the line had been drawn between those killed on duty and the rest. Perhaps anomalies are inescapable. But I urge my right hon. Friend to realise that the House is not satisfied. I do not claim to speak for the House, of course—that would be far too arrogant—but I sincerely judge that the House is not satisfied with the place where the line is drawn.
We have had many expressions of view from the other side which should make it easier for my right hon. Friend to think again, and I hope very much that the back benches will prevail in this matter.
I am obliged to hon. Members opposite who have spoken, for they have set the tone for this debate. Had I been called immediately after the Home Secretary's speech, I should probably have ruined the atmosphere by losing my temper and saying things I ought not to say. But, if I may use the expression, I have been sobered down by the intelligence of some of the speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I do not deny the integrity of the right hon. Gentleman. Deep down he is a kindly and decent man, but he has an extraordinary capacity for putting his foot right in it. If anyone can spoil a good thing, it is he.
We started off with the idea of trying to remove some of the anomalies. The right hon. Gentleman has made a gesture which, by and large, is fairly generous. I must declare an interest here. I come from a family of policemen. My brother was a policeman, and I have relatives who are policemen. I have a young son who is a policeman, and, incidentally, his 19-year-old friend is now seriously ill in hospital after having been battered by thugs at 3 o'clock in the morning. His life is in danger. The House will understand, therefore, that I feel emotional about these things. I do not claim special consideration on that ground, of course. My 18 years' experience tells me that one must have a good factual case.
I put this example to the Home Secretary. A friend of mine who is a policeman went out at 3 o'clock in the morning, on night duty in a squad car, one of the police cars familiar to us all. He was sent following a 999 call to a reported burglary at Sidcup. The car sped to the scene of the crime. There were only two police officers, one in the back and one in the front. The car skidded. It was doing about 80 m.p.h. to get there. It crashed into a tree, and the policeman sitting in the back unfortunately was killed. Under the Regulations now proposed by the Home Secretary, his widow is not entitled to benefit. Had they arrived on the scene and the criminal, in the course of doing his stuff, killed one of the policemen—my friend—the widow would have been entitled to it.
The Home Secretary cannot say to men and women of this House, who have years of experience in negotiations of all kinds, "I will now go in for a comprehensive review." This is an insult to our intelligence. He says that his Department—it matters not whether it is the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else; he is head of the Department—has been discussing the matter for three years. He comes to us with this washy argument about deferring it for three years. It is either right now or it is not right.
What has the argument about the firemen to do with it? The argument was used not so many years ago that the policemen could not be given an increase in salary because the firemen would demand one. On that basis, the policemen would never be given a decent salary increase. I ask the Home Secretary to believe that the firemen have arguments in their own right and will argue them. It does not matter whether what the right hon. Gentleman is doing sets a precedent. It is a question of whether it is right for the policemen.
I say this, I hope, without too much emotion. I am a little sick and tired of the way the House of Commons fails to protect many of our policemen. It is always the first to give headlines to the Challenors and those who may be bad, but the vast majority are ignored and taken for granted. The public are cowards, too. They are the first to ask for the aid of the police but the first to deny the policeman help when he needs it.
Too many of the police carry far too much. The Home Secretary knows better than anyone that large numbers of the police are leaving, because it is not all that good to work for the police or to go out at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning with thuggery today.
When we come into the House of Commons, we ask for piffling shillings for a principle which is right and we are given this ridiculous argument. I respect the Conservatives who have spoken; what they have said is to their credit. Let the House of Commons prove itself just once in a while. We are not worried about Whips, on either side. Let us say tonight that we think that a certain principle is right and, if there is a vote, vote for what we believe to be right. There is no party political argument about this and no question of gaining votes. I do not know what it will add up to at the end of the day.
I believe that deep down the Home Secretary is the sort of man who wants to do the right thing, but he has the capacity of doing it at the wrong time. I ask him to say that he understands and respects what has been said and will now discuss the matter with the Police Federation and agree with it in general terms.
The right hon. Gentleman has no trade union sense. One never discusses this, that or the other with the other side unless at the end of the day one is sure that one will get general agreement. One does not say, "This is what you have got to take", because that gets the worst out of anybody on the other side. I urge the Home Secretary to take the Regulations back, discuss them with the Federation and agree the matter in general terms, and he will earn the respect of the House.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) struck a responsive chord, certainly on this side of the House, when he remarked that the House as a whole has sometimes been lacking in the way it has backed up the police in some of the more difficult duties they have had to carry out in recent years.
The Government have an admirable record in improving the conditions for the police and their families. Therefore, I regret all the more that this limited but irritating issue should have come before us this evening, because I myself am rather doubtful about the relevance of the comprehensive review which has been offered.
Of course, if we are to have special payments for people doing special forms of duty, and to the widows of those who are killed doing special forms of duty, there are bound to be anomalies. One cannot escape it. I cannot see that any review, however comprehensive it may be, can avoid anomalies altogether. The question merely is where one draws the line, and it does seem to me very difficult indeed to argue that a policeman who is killed while in pursuit of a getaway car is doing anything different in kind from a policeman who is shot by a gunman. At the same time, it seems to me very difficult to understand how it was possible for these negotiations to have dragged on for some three years.
So it is with great regret that, unless my right hon. Friend can be rather more forthcoming than he has been so far, I shall find it very difficult to support him in the Lobbies this evening.
I might not yield to the Opposition, but I will certainly yield to the House. May I say at the outset how grateful I am to the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), not for his kind personal references about me but, much more important, for his observations about the police. This House of Commons can give enormous help to the police and to the cause of law and order if we will make it perfectly clear that we do not allow our opinion of the police service as a whole to be prejudiced by the failings of a tiny percentage of policemen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] I should like those cheers to be heard by ordinary constables all round the country, because I have been aware that a certain number of people in the police, reading the newspapers, have got the impression that the House of Commons has lost confidence in them, and I am convinced that that is not the case.
From listening to this debate, it is perfectly clear to me that the House desires this definition widened, and in the circumstances I think it is my duty to do that. Now I cannot, for reasons which I am sure both sides will appreciate, do that overnight. These matters are discussed in the Police Council. I cannot take it upon myself to speak at a moment's notice for the official side, on which, as I said, the Home Office is in the minority. What I would like to suggest is that, in giving my pledge that this definition must be widened, the House could, as I think I could reasonably ask, pass these Regulations tonight, because there is nothing in them which anybody wishes to take away from. I am giving a firm pledge that as soon as possible—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] I cannot say precisely when, because this must be discussed with the official side and with the Police Council.
That is what I would like to do, but obviously it depends upon the Police Council. What I am anxious about is that nobody should lose by all this. As far as I understand, and I have listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), there is nothing he wants taken away from these Regulations. So far as I am aware, everybody wants the whole content of these Regulations to be in force at the earliest possible moment. What is also desired on both sides of the House is that as soon as possible a further regulation should be brought in which will further widen the definition.
That is the suggestion that I make to the House, and I make it in all good faith, having accepted what seemed to me to be the opinion that this was not a party matter but that the House as a whole was asking me to do this. If we cannot get forward with these Regulations, which in themselves, so far as they go, are completely agreed, I should feel that the House was not treating the police quite as favourably as it should. That is what I feel, but I am in the hands of the House in this matter. What I am anxious to do is to get on, and I am certain that those who appreciate the position in which I am vis-à-vis the Police Council know that I cannot give any pledge on behalf of the official side or the Police Council across the Floor of the House.
We understand the mood in which the right hon. Gentleman is now speaking. The issue really is whether he thinks he can promise the House to re-lay the Regulations in the sense in which the House certainly wants it before we rise for the Summer Recess. That really means within the next month. If the right hon. Gentleman says, as I understood him just now to say, that he is not sure that he can, he puts the whole House in tremendous difficulty, because we do not want it as it stands. He must tell us "Yes, I will relay it before we rise." If he could say that, then I think we should probably help him in his trouble tonight.
As an alternative to that—I appreciate my right hon. Friend's difficulties and want to avoid the House being divided about this—would he promise that any widening of the definition will be made retrospective to 1st August, the date this Regulation comes into force?
I hope I can do better than that. The suggestion that I am making—I am trying to respond to everything that has been said on both sides; I think hon. Members will give me credit for that—is that what I would like to do would be to bring forward an amending regulation in this Parliament, and I will do that if everybody will help me to do so. I cannot do it single-handed, and the House must accept that I cannot; but if everybody will help me to do it, I will do it. I would suggest in these circumstances that the simple and straightforward thing would be, that having been said by me, to pass these Regulations tonight and then to add, before the end of this Parliament, a further regulation which will meet the point which has been raised on both sides of the House.
If I might interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, what he says goes a long way towards meeting the wish of the House. He knows all the arguments on this, I am sure, by now. Is it in his mind that he will be able to put a draft Regulation before the Federation, knowing its mind as fully as he does, that he thinks is likely to satisfy it? He knows that there is no more to be said on the subject. If he thinks he will be able to widen the discretion in that way, and he knows the limits to which the Federation is ready to go, I see every reason why we should allow the Regulations to pass with his undertaking to lay an amending Regulation before we rise.
That is exactly what I intend to do. I think I understand the Federation's point of view. I have put forward frankly to the House the difficulties which I see in the form of words which the Federation has suggested, but let us get together and try to reach agreement on this before the end of this month, and then I very much trust that the hon. Member for Bermondsey will no longer say that I do not know how to do the right thing at the right time.